Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of state writing standards on the English II standardized exam.
Today is the day, the day I’ve been desperately waiting for (so we can move on with life) and the day I’ve been dreading: testing day. My students took the 4-hour writing test this morning in our large gyms. They sat two to a folding table, with a large dictionary between them, two sharpened pencils each, a skinny little thesaurus, and a dream – that someday their children’s education will be measured not by how many multiple choice questions they can answer or 26-line essays they can write, but by what real-world problems they can actually solve and whether they can think and create.
Sorry if that sounds a little loopy; I have never administered an exam of this magnitude before, and it is awful. As a student, I always thought being a proctor has to be the cushiest job in the world; you read a script, pass out some tests, and do nothing else for a few hours. So easy. I was soooo wrong. I am not supposed to turn my back on these kids, lest something unseemly occurs that violates the lengthy testing code of conduct. I must watch them, I must pace between them – but not too much, as that is distracting to some kids and makes others nervous. I can’t read, as that could distract me. All I can do is stare…and try not to go mad. I have to walk slowly and quietly; fast movements distract. Although I am not allowed to know the contents of the test, as I paced I saw many of my students drawing graphic organizers and pre-writing their essays. Maybe half a dozen in the entire gym (out of around 130) finished in the first hour or so; this showed that the majority took their time to read and plan carefully. All of my observations suggest that my students might possibly have gleaned something for all our weeks of prep that they could use on the exam.
Anyone who has ever ridden a subway at morning rush hour has probably experienced the phenomenon of a bunch of people packed together – who are deathly silent. It’s rather creepy. The gym was like that; any communication happened entirely with hand signals. Over the four hours, I and my 22 students over whom I was watching had developed our own system to communicate:
Eye contact + point to back door = “May I use the rest room?”
Nod + picked up test = “Yes”…Head shake + palm pushed forward + point at empty desk = “Wait until that student returns.”
Hold pencil + prick finger on tip = “I need a sharpened pencil.”
Point to wrist = “How much longer?” [Answered in numbered hand signals]
Pretend to sneeze into hand = “I need a tissue.”
Close test booklet + silent heavy sigh = “I’m done with test.”
Student reading dictionary after test = “You were right, Mrs. H – I should’ve brought a book.”
Trying to stack the unused dictionaries on the desk into a little house and miming walking people with two fingers = “I’m going loopy, please get me out of here!”
I was able to step out a few times to do some jumping jacks and try to stay sane; I made two coffee runs and attempted to do some lesson planning with the sophomore world history teaching using mostly note-passing. I need to bring some crochet or something to do tomorrow as I pace because today was awful. One more round tomorrow…and three more next month…and hopefully someday, my students’ dreams will all come true…