Saturday, May 16, 2009

Testing the Teacher

The Sixth Crazy!

I’m a pretty easy-going teacher. For all of my complaints, my kids are not criminals and in most cases, not delinquents. I could be in a worse school. And my advanced kids are typically good kids, albeit sassy smart-asses, but good. On Thursday, I had my 5th period advanced class working on an article about Elizabethan England, part of their mini-unit on Shakespeare. Now, Shakespeare is not really in the curriculum for 8th grade, but it is in 9th. My feeling is that if they get a little background knowledge on Shakespeare, they will be better prepared for the full Shakespeare unit in 9th grade.

So, they were reading this article when one of the kids, Z, asks why I am making them read. I say "well, I told you I’m preparing you for next year. And besides, you might see this on my end of quarter final." Well, that prompted a bunch of the kids into this, “You wouldn’t test us” mode. Now, I don’t give many test. Most of my curriculum is about writing so their big grades are writing projects, but an occasional test is not unheard of. Anyway, this conversation quickly degraded into a group of four boys, betting that I wouldn’t give them a test the next day. I said ok, you want a test, you got it. Then they proceeded to up the ante by stating that I wouldn't give them 50 questions. This prompted another to state that 50 would be too easy. In no time they talked themselves into a 150 question test with an essay.

Sound unfair? It was, but I said, okay, you want a test, you got it. They didn’t believe that I would do it, so now I had something to prove. First, don’t mess with me. Second, I keep my word. I was up until about 1 am writing this wicked fill in the blank/short answer test. Unfortunately I did not have enough material to get to 150 questions. I got to 110.

I went in yesterday, made copies and awaited 5th period. They all filed into class. They had heard rumors from their other teachers that I did indeed have a test for them. The first few in asked if I really did have a test. I held up the stack.

“Testing mode,” I told them and obediently they turned their desks from groups to rows and sat down. They took out pens and pencils. They waited.

“Ok guys, here’s the deal: I do not have a 150 question test for you.” My ringleaders smirked. I waited a second. “I was only able to come up with a 110 questions.” Mouths dropped. “I didn’t want to end up just repeating questions, and I was up pretty late so, well, there you go.” I continued the instructions, including the instructions for the essay question.

Eyes got wide. Smirks fell. Hands tentatively went into the air. I called on A.

“What if we don’t finish?”

“Well, I guess that would be a problem for you, huh?” I smiled. “Do the best you can. You may start as soon as you get the test.” I handed out the test and as the kids flipped though the seven pages, they kept glancing at me as if waiting for me to get to the punch line.

When I said nothing more, they heaved a collective sigh and began working. All except Z. When he got his test, he clearly, boldly, loudly (how many more adverbs can I add here?) said, “I’m not doing this,” put his name on it and turned it over and sat there glaring at me as if he were a matador staring down a bull. But a Taurus has nothing on a Leo in terms of stubborness.

Ok, I thought, you want to play hardball…we’ll play. I set the timer for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, all the other students were working as quickly as they could to get as many finished as they could. Twenty minutes went by the only way it could during a test, crawling like a lame animal for shelter for the teacher, and flying by like an supersonic jet for the students.

When the timer went off a number of the kids looked at me horrified. I said, “Ok, for those of you who had the foresight to bring your notebook with you, as you are supposed to do each day, you may take it out and use your notes to complete the test.” Z glared even more. Guess who didn’t have his notebook?

The test continued. Z glared. It was a matter of principle now. Who would break first? Who would prove the point?

Twenty more minutes went by. I called time and collected the tests. After I had all the tests I addressed the kids.

“Now, how many of you think it was unfair for me to test you all when this whole thing was started by Z, D, D, and T?” All hands went into the air including the four troublemakers! I said, “You’re right. It really wasn’t fair; however, I made my point, right?” Heads nodded. “Good. Now, for those of you who attempted this test, even though it was unfair, for each correct answer you will receive extra credit on your end of quarter exam.” Smiles, except for one. “Now, I’m going to grade these, record your points and give them back for you to correct and use for a study guide for the end of quarter final. And if you turn this back in, corrected, on the day of the final you will receive additional points.”

The bell rang and students looked at me to dismiss them. I let them go, reminding them about the second part to their test to be completed at home and turned in on Monday: a brief summary of one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Later on, while I was outside with my 3rd period class doing art fest stuff, Z came up to me and apologized for "being a jerk." His words, not mine.

Exeunt stage left, pursued by homework.

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