Thursday, April 23, 2009

In The Trenches

You know how sometimes, you try to reason with a little kid, explain what is wrong about his behavior, not scold him, just give him a talking-to so he can reason things out in his little noggin? You take 10 minutes, and he nods and agrees, and then the first thing he says when you are done talking is, "Where'd you get them big ol' teeth?"

That's how I felt after giving my students their End Of Course test for Biology.

Let me share with you some of the questions I was asked. Keep in mind that I could not answer any questions about the test itself. I could only pronounce words if asked. Also, I did not know that some students would need a ruler. There was no mention made of rulers. The examiner's booklet only said to provide students with the test, answer sheet, and a #2 pencil that was not mechanical. And it specifically said, "No calculators are permitted." Imagine my surprise when, at various points throughout the test, 4 students raised their hands and asked, "How am I supposed to measure this without a ruler?" I looked at their question. Indeed, it said, "Using a ruler, measure the blankety-blank to the nearest centimeter/millimeter." Each test was different. One measured the nucleus of a cell diagram, one had a salamander, one had a lizard, and the other one I didn't get a good look at, because by then I just held out a ruler. Some had to measure centimeters, some millimeters. Make that 5 students asking for rulers. Here is my favorite disheartening question. All conversations were whispered at my desk or theirs.

A young man approached my desk.
"Can I use a ruler?"
"Does it tell you to measure something?"
"No. It's for a data table."
"You don't need one."
"I want the lines to be straight."
"They might wonder why the lines are so straight if it didn't say to use a ruler."
"Oh, c'mon. I want it to be aesthetically pleasing."

Next young man, returning the ruler I gave him for measuring. A ruler with inches on one edge, and centimeters on the other.
"Can I have a different ruler?"
"It says to measure in millimeters. This is a centimeter ruler."
(Keep in mind, I can not explain or give clues).
"That is the only kind of ruler that I have."
"Well, how am I supposed to measure millimeters?"
"That ruler will do what you need it to do."
"OK, then. I guess I'll just say this."
He went to his desk and hastily wrote a number, then turned in his test.

A young lady raised her hand.
"How am I supposed to draw a multi-line graph if don't have any colored pencils?"
"You will have to work with what you have."
"But I don't understand how I can do it with just a pencil."
"You'll have to do the best you can."
(I could see the wheels turning in her skull).
"What am I supposed to do, use dots?"
"Do the best you can."

A young man called me to his desk. He gestured to his open test booklet.
"How does this look?"
"I can't tell you if it's right or wrong."
"But doesn't it look nice?"
(No comment).

I sure have some big teeth, it seems.


Stewed Hamm said...

I'm sure you're just turgid with pride... or something equally aesthetically pleasing.

Hillbilly Mom said...

The 'aesthetically pleasing' dude is OH SO NOT aesthetically pleasing. A kid in a lower grade said earlier in the year, "I haven't seen him in a long time. Puberty hit him HARD!"