Spreadsheet Anxiety

“Let me show you what I figured out,” L proudly announced. She flipped open her laptop and after click-click-click, a spreadsheet opened. I viewed her screen with the other Middle School Literacy Coaches gathered around the conference table for our monthly meeting. I saw columns of data and tabs across the bottom labeled grade 6, 7, & 8. Certains cells glowed red, yellow and green, like the traffic light.

L’s school adminstered the middle of the year or MOY assessment earlier in the week and she somehow already had taken the time to retireve the data from the Pearson website. I checked yesterday and discovered my password had expired. She figured out how to sort the data to show just the most useful cells. I get overwhelmed when a spreadsheet’s size is begger than the screen. I noticed her data starts at column A and continues beyond column AA. And she used conditonal formating to make the sheet colorful. I am never sure or trust using the formula and instead, tend to add colors, cell by cell. But that takes forever when there are 800+ students taking a test.

I stared at my collegue’s screen and started to feel my eyes start to water, my throat start to tightenm my neck start to feel warm. Seeing this spreadsheet and this person who has the same job title as me smiling proudly was setting off an anxiety attack. Was anyone noticing?

Quickly, I wiped my left eye. I bent down and made it seem like I was retrieving something from my backpack. With my head buried as if looking for a pen, I took a moment to breath – in and out, in and out, in and out. I wiped my right eye and sat back up at the conference table. I was sitting amongst five women, all younger than me, all well educated, energentic, passionate and true leaders. And as I looked at that speadsheet created by one of the women, I felt like I was sitting in a room where a foriegn language was being spoken and anxiety over my inadequate computer skills bubbled up for a brief moment.

Fast forward a week…

The students at my school took their MOY assessment last Firday. Today, my amazing testing coordimator emailed me the reports she downloaded from Pearson. One of the ladies at the table made a video after our meeting and shared how she used something called a pivot table to organize the MOY data. Another shared a report she made, modeling how to used the traffic light colors to quickly see low, medium and high scores. And I just finished sitting at my dining room table from 4pm – 8pm click-click-clicking away. Now I can proudly said, “Let me show you what I figured out…”


6 thoughts on “Spreadsheet Anxiety

  1. Erika says:

    Go, you! That would totally intimidate me too- I do not like Sheets/Excel, probably because I am not proficient at them. Your strategy to get yourself calmed down seems to have helped and it sounds like you have kind colleagues!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. vivian chen says:

    What a lovely ending and what a kind team! As someone who is considered fairly “tech-y” and is called upon often by various relatives (and my husband) to fix their IT issues, this was a good reminder of how frustrating and overwhelming all this stuff can be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Greg&Linda says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share something that obviously bothered you. I so get that feeling of not-being-good-at X. Ugh. I have to remind myself to celebrate what someone else learned… and then ask how they did that. (I prefer a step by step list… lol)


  4. kimhaynesjohnson says:

    Sally, I love when we learn new ways to do things that looked so challenging, and then we are equipped and it’s not as challenging as we thought. Collaboration and cooperation are so vital in educational settings, and I sure do value my pals who show me the way, just as you’ve captured here.


  5. humbleswede says:

    I could feel the anxiety as the colorful cells and the ‘beyond screen width” columns scrolled by. I get that feeling. For one thing, there’s something impersonal about those spreadsheets, even if they are a useful way to look at trends and highlight problems and successes. But, yes, it’s also daunting when someone else seems more facile with a tool. I’m glad you were able to breathe and later to overcome.


  6. Fran McCrackin says:

    I very much appreciate your honest recounting of a terrible feeling. In your second paragraph, the structure of she… and I… really works, and your examples are so relatable and sometimes even funny (the pw expired, the Aa column…) But then you give us your visceral reaction and we all can relate to that feeling. The physical details you use are so important to put us there with you, practically under the table. Then, kudos to you for reaching out for help, and your kind colleagues making it work for you, too. That’s the way its supposed to be, but how often do we let pride and (wrong) feelings of shame get in the way of our learning? Just as students often do? Thanks- writing about an unhappy moment makes for a powerful and helpful piece.


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