Welcome to October, believe it or not.

I’d like to say a word or 2 about testing, or at least the way we test at SMAA. Many adults have developed a negative attitude toward testing, partly due to the judgments associated tests in school. Simply put, the message many people have gotten is that if they do not get an A+ on a test then they are no good as people. Getting in A+ on a test, on the other hand, proves your worth as a person. As ludicrous as this sounds I’m sure we’ve all been through this. However it is so antithetical to success that we need to see this type of view what is–misguided the least, and outright destructive at the worst.

I have said this before and it bears repeating. I have seen schools change the name from the “belt test” to “promotion demonstration” to avoid the idea of testing altogether. The idea is that a student demonstrates that he is ready to be promoted. OK, he’s taking a test. My point is that changing the name doesn’t change the purpose of testing or that your skill is being tested.

In my eyes the phrase “test it” changes my whole mindset about learning and succeeding. I don’t test myself, I test what I’m practicing to see what I need to work on. This way I take personal judgment and self worth out of the equation. Now I can focus on my actions and their results, not whether I am a good person or a bad person because of my performance.

In a way the entire process surrounding testing encapsulates the martial art lesson of life long mastery. The secret is right there out in the open contained in our teaching cycle, belt testing and the strategies we teach students how to fix their mistakes, turning them into long term success. Don’t shy away from it.

Of course testing is always stressful because it is difficult to face yourself. But again, that’s the point. I refuse to lower standards and/or pass students just so they will feel good about themselves. Most of the stress around testing goes back to judgment–judgment or perceived judgment from others as well as your own self judgment–and not the material.

I have always taught and can continue to teach students to focus on their efforts and outcomes. Students develop more personal power when they can look at their efforts, see what is working and what is not working, and fix it. They are always strengthening their weakest link. The best students are the ones, who even when they pass a test look at what they can improve and set to work on becoming even better.

So embrace the testing procedure and apply this mindset to everything you do and long-term success is guaranteed.