Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Educational Paradox

Test days drive me nuts the most.

I know, it sounds completely counter-intuitive, but of all the days of the school year, the eight days a year I administer a test to my classes are the ones where I am the tensest and the most irritable.  Most teachers I know absolutely love test days, because they can  feel laid back and relaxed.  I am the exact opposite, and there are a few of reasons for this.

First, during a test I am always hyper-aware of what’s going on in the classroom – and thus am always on the lookout for any kind of foul play. This is not something for which I have to be constantly on the watch during a regular school day. A regular school day requires a couple of admonishments here and there for a lack of attention and preparation but not necessarily against academic dishonesty.

Secondly, giving a test bears with it the frustrations of explaining things several times that should be somewhat obvious. It’s interesting in that I don’t mind repeating myself so much during a regular class period, but during a test I absolutely hate it – especially when I had explained it at the beginning of class (or yesterday and Tuesday). I guess it has a bit to do with the fact that I don’t want to cheat the kids out of time taking the test. So much of test-taking is about momentum and getting into the frame of mind with the material. If I have to repeat myself, then it follows that I am drawing their attention away from concentrating on the test.

Thirdly, there is always the fine line of how to actually make a test, and this is one thing that only can come with experience; no amount of schoolin' can help in the art of making a test juuuuust the right length so that it isn't too short or too long.  It truly is trial and error, but the other issue is one of self-interest: how much does the teacher want to grade?  It is always an interesting question from a pedagogical point of view; different types of tests will tell you different things.  Hence, I have a little bit of everything on them.  It can tell me a lot of different things about the students, but it becomes a little more to grade.  And that's the trade off.

Two tests down.  Six more to go.    

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