No, she didn’t make it to the trash can. No, she was not en route to the restroom. It was just at her desk.
On her STAAR test.
Now, I’m not a medical professional, but when she returned from the nurse 20 minutes later, not having had a temperature or any other reason to go home, I have to believe that the ralphing is correlated to the test itself. Our students are made well aware of the high stakes of state tests, like STAAR, beginning in early elementary school.
The student in question did tell me, shortly after beginning her test, that she felt sick. I am the last one to write a nurse’s pass – I keep bandages in stock just so students have one fewer excuse to miss class time – but this student would be the last one to ask for one. So, I immediately told her to go to the restroom, from whence I heard retching shortly thereafter. However, a few moments later, she came back in and resumed her test. I even had a nurse pass ready for her, but she said she was fine. Which she was…for about 30 more minutes…at which point I hear a liquescent cough and quickly realize that she has vomited on herself. But because of the nature of vomit, she has also managed to soak the corner of her answer sheet and bottom section of her test booklet.
Thankfully, it was only a small volume that came out before she could control herself. It didn’t splash onto the floor or anyone else. My kids handled it surprisingly well, staying calm and doing whatever they could to get themselves/things out of the way so she could get to the bathroom.
I apologize to those of you with weak stomachs (maybe don’t become teachers). But my purpose of writing today is not actually to rehash my inaugural experience dealing with throw-up as a teacher. I want to get back to my original concern: that the stress and pressure of the test itself is quite possibly what led to the incident in the first place.
This student is one with A-plus behavior and grades. She contributes in class without interrupting out of turn. She completes all of her work satisfactorily and on time. She generally has her shit together, and she is one of the few who I think would probably be fine without stupendous, dedicated teachers in her life. I hate to think that a reading test could break that spirit.
Was she just nervous about how much it would affect her grade or potential advancement? Had she stayed up late studying and fallen ill due to lack of sleep? Had she been worked to the point of exhaustion during the drill-and-kill review days of class leading up to testing day? Or did the thought of her pleasant, bubbly personality and brilliant, sophisticated potential being boiled down to 48 questions simply cause her to hurl? Come to think of it…I might need to find a barf bag myself.
Anyway, I want to ask her all these questions. But I know that she would be embarrassed and uncomfortable, as she was at lunch and after school when I tried to bring up her unsettled stomach. Try putting yourself in her shoes. How would you answer them?
BT Bubble Sheet
BT Bubble Sheet (BTBS) is a Dallas ISD middle school teacher. Visit her blog here for more blogs in addition to what she writes for us!
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