A dangerous combination…
Last week, I volunteered as an end-of-grade testing proctor at my stepkids’ middle school. Having administered the Nurse Entrance Test for several years at a local community college and taught in the university classroom, I was well-prepared for three hours of serving as a second “set of eyes” and expecting to be bored out of my mind. But the school desperately needed proctors this year – apparently, the regular pool of volunteers dwindled significantly (or the stay-at-home moms saw the weather forecast and just wanted to spend their mornings at the pool) — so I caved.
As the counselor called my name at the end of the training session, I was met by a very respectful young man, who escorted me to his classroom, making sure to use “Yes, ma’ams” and opening the hallway doors along the way. Walking in the class, I was met with the familiar sound of thirteen-year-olds, chatting away as their teacher looked on from his podium at the front of the room.
“They’re stuck being quiet for the next three hours, so I’m letting them get it out now,” he said in an almost apologetic tone. I told him that I had two stepkids in middle school, so it was perfectly understandable (and an excellent move on his part). He nervously fiddled with his testing materials, paper-clipping the relevant sections to read and neatly restacking the booklets. I felt uncomfortable for him, so I struck up a conversation, asking him how long he’d been teaching. He told me this was his eighteenth year. I suppose state-mandated testing days can make even the veterans shake in their boots.
When the announcement came over the intercom that testing could begin, you could have heard a pin drop. On the teacher’s cue – a simple “Okay, let’s get started” — the students sat in their seats, quietly awaiting the task at hand. Had they rehearsed this? Impressive. Instructions were read from the testing manual – word for word as directed – and I followed cue, dispensing pencils and scratch paper. Some kids looked confident, while others squirmed a little in their seats, looking as if they were about to puke on their desktops. I felt so sorry for them. I just didn’t remember this kind of pressure 35 years ago.
“You may begin.” The students opened to the appropriate page. Heads lowered to the text, and instantly these young people became part of the game – “the numbers game.”
I’ll write more about the experience in my next post.