Monday, September 10, 2007

The Test

First of all, these tests are harder than they let on.

I came out of both tests on Saturday knowing I didn't score 100%, but at least feeling that I passed (Knock on wood). They give you a ton of scenarios of how to teach and then ask you a multiple choice question (which, if you ask me, says there is only one right answer when we teachers know that exploration and many right answers are possible on the "right" way to teach something). However, the questions basically make you fall into the fact that there are multiple ways.

I think the hardest were the very specific English content questions. They asked very specific questions about the contributions of such as Ernest Hemingway and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Why pick such specific authors? Where was a question on the life and times of Shakespeare, or Fitzgerald? To be honest, I have never studied Ernest Hemingway my entire life, other than The Old Man and the Sea. And I learned that book to teach it at Bremerton; I did not learn it in college, or on my own.

And they picked very tough poems to analyze and interpret, multiple choice of course, which is the very "new critic" way to say that poems only have one interpretation. They picked poems that, if you ask me, could take a week and a full paper on analyzing the things. There was even a very specific question on the difference between Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnets--uh, if I really needed to remember the difference, I would go and look it up. I think they forget that in this test. So I think I missed a blasted Shakespeare question because I may not have remembered the difference.

The worst part was the time factor to the tests. It said quite plainly on the admission ticket, "Reporting time: 7:15 am." I don't know about you but that says to me to make sure your butt is there by 7:15 am. We were herded like cattle into the foyer of the junior high school in Normal, waiting until 7:15 am, then we were released to go into our specific classrooms to take our specific tests. There, they checked our ID and took our thumbprint for the test. Our classroom was done with this procedure by 7:35. This is the part that made me fume as I sat there: we waited for two people that hadn't shown up yet. They were told to administer the test at 7:50 am, thinking that the thumbprinting would take longer than it did. However, that was supposed to be for people already there and waiting, not coming in late. One person came in at 7:40 am; another came at 7:48 am. We literally had to sit there, as we weren't allowed to bring anything into the classroom for test security. I was fuming that we were waiting for late-comers, absolutely livid. If they had said the reporting time was 7:15, then they should be there at 7:15, especially for a state-mandated test. I felt penalized for being on time, I really did. I only lived a few miles away, so I would have waited until quarter til 8 if I had known. I forced myself to calm down before my test. Then the same sad thing happened for the 1:30 test--we didn't start until 2.

For each test, we were allotted five hours. The English test I took in the morning was 125 multiple choice questions. It took me two hours, roughly a minute per question. That is a loooooong test. I honestly don't know why it has to be that long. The afternoon test on secondary teaching was 120 multiple choice questions and two essays. That took me two and a half hours. That was a brain-exhausting day.

I think the hardest thing to swallow was that there was nothing specifically to study. The test on secondary teaching has the vague expectations as its basis, like "Understanding how kids learn," and not the actual specifics, such as the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. I mean, how exactly do kids learn? What do they want me to study? I think this would have been harder coming straight out of college than it is now, with five years of experience. With the English content test, shouldn't they tell me to make sure I know the difference between the sonnets than the vague "Understand the forms of poetry in history"?

So, knock on wood, I passed both tests and don't have to worry about them anymore. I understand that they are trying to make sure we are effective teachers with a good knowledge about our subject. I just think they are going about it wrong.

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