Monday, December 22, 2014

Testing, testing...

               Hello everyone! I hope the year end is treating you well! (Or is it the new year? Not used to this auto posting feature yet!)

              As I’m writing this there are around 600 anxious students waiting to take their final exams here at Serenity. Finals are weird here. Okay. They aren’t weird. Just different than what I’m used to. In my high school back home, there was a finals week, to be sure. However, we took our exams during our last, or second to last, normally scheduled class time. Nothing out of the ordinary. 
              Here at Serenity at least the finals schedule feels more like a college set up to me. Students have only half days during testing week. So for four periods in the morning they take tests and teachers are supposed to grade tests in the afternoons. I like this week. Since the only test I am actually in charge of is English conversation and I only give the spoken portion and grade my 10 point part of the 1st year tests, it it means I can catch up on those tasks I’ve been behind on at work.
Things like finishing putting away Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations that have been sitting neglected in the corner. Or cleaning my second desk. Dear gods. The dust is so bad on that desk. I’m fairly sure it hasn’t been regularly used since 2004/2005. Why 2004/2005? Because most of the documents I’m finding in the desk are from that era. Why would I clean out the second desk and not neglect it if I have a perfectly good, CLEAN desk in the staff room? Well, there  are a couple of reasons.
One. The staff room can be crowded and noisy. With somewhere in the area of 45-50 teachers in here that can be enough to make for a noisy room. Top it off with hordes of students rushing in and amassing between classes so they can talk to their teachers and you have a nightmare recipe for chaos. It’s even work testing week because they block the entire walkway to the exit as they aren’t allowed to enter the teacher’s desk rows. Using my second desk in the preparation room is a nice reprieve from time to time.
Two. This school is FREEZING. It’s mid-December now and the hallways have been so cold at times I thought I might lose a few fingers running to the classroom just down the hall. Most days, I swear it’s warmer outside than in the building. Benefit of my second desk? It’s right next to the window. On the south facing side of the building. Hallelujah, there is a god!
For those of you who don’t know, south facing windows get the most sunlight and thus raise the temperature in any given room considerably. On a random note, homes and apartments with south facing windows/balconies are also extremely sought after and can at times be more expensive to rent because of this feature.
All right. Back to tests.
So. This week the students are taking their tests. Like I said, lots of anxiety for students. A little bit of a break for me (if you negate the dust and trying to come up with ideas for next term’s curriculum). I’ll admit. As a student, I thought teachers just didn’t care. I thought they made tests without thinking about their students ability, or if they would really, truly be able to understand and answer all the questions. On more than one occasion I resented teachers for making their tests difficult. Don’t get me wrong. I usually test really well, but that comes with loads of stress, countless hours of studying and very little sleep prior to the test itself. I thought, coming into teaching, that the other side of the test would be a breeze.
I just want to say, to every teacher I’ve ever had in the history of ever, I’m sorry if I ever thought your tests were too difficult or that you didn’t care about your student’s results.
Let me tell you now. They do worry and stress and care. Get that idea that they don’t out of your head right now. For midterms this term I spent at least a week prior to the test re-examining my test. Was it too difficult? Would the students understand my questions? Would they remember how to answer? At the same time, I didn’t want it to be too easy. For finals, it has been a little bit easier. I wasn’t quite so stressed making the tests because, well, I now had one go under my belt. So it was a little bit less stressful. I haven’t even lost a lot of sleep over it this time. It still took me half a week to make though. Even among the more experienced teachers I often see it take them three to four days of careful planning and work to design their tests.

All righty. Now I’m just rambling. Once again, Happy New Year! If it isn’t here now, it will be soon enough!

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