Practice Taking What You Can Get

, , , , , | Learning | July 12, 2021

At the university where I work, I teach a library research methods course. Since the final exam is a skills test, I prepare a take-home practice exam with different questions that cover the same techniques as the final. If the students can work out the answers to the practice test, they should do well on the final.

Two students approach me.

Student: “We want to leave a couple of days before the final. Could we take it early?”

Me: “You can’t take the final itself, since you could potentially pass the questions on to other students, but I’ll let you take the practice exam in class the day before everyone else gets it, and I’ll grade you on that.”

Student: “But that’s not fair! We should get a practice exam, too.”

Me: “Let me get this straight. As a favor, I am letting you take the exam two days early, but you also want me to create an extra practice exam just for you two?”

Student: “Yes?”

Me: “No.”

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Somebody’s Slope Is About To Become Much More Negative

, , , , , , | Learning | June 3, 2021

In my junior year of high school, I am put in a math class with a teacher fairly fresh out of school. She is by no means a bad teacher, but because she is new, she is a bit naive. For example, other math teachers usually create two similar but different versions of a test with different colors that alternate each row so that people can’t cheat, but she didn’t do this… at least at first.

It must have become obvious to her that people were sharing answers. On our fifth quiz, I am working on it and realize the girl next to me is copying my answers. Whatever, I don’t really care. But then, the graph on her quiz catches my eye and I realize that her slope is negative while mine is positive, and then it hits me: they’re different quizzes. I just let that ship sail and let her do what she wants.

Quiz scores come back and my classmate gets a zero while I get a perfect score. At parent-teacher conferences, we get to reminisce about that interaction, and I get to tell my teacher that I realized both that my classmate was cheating and that they were different tests and chose not to try to alert her, which tickled my teacher pink.

She started color-coding the versions after that, but she put a lot of cheaters to shame on the first one!

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Well, At Least He Learned Something…

, , , , , , , | Learning | May 29, 2021

Teacher: “For our next science test, I will award the person who scores the highest a $20 prize.”

To a ten-year-old kid back in the 1990s, this was serious cash.

A few days later, I went into the empty classroom during lunch break and spotted a stack of the aforementioned tests on the teacher’s desk. Devil horns sprouted out of my head as I grinned from ear to ear, snatched a test off the stack, and stuffed it in my backpack.

I figured the teacher would get suspicious of a C-average student suddenly scoring a perfect on a relatively difficult exam, so that evening when I was at home, I memorized that test forward, backward, out of order, sideways, upside down, and even made flashcards for myself. The following morning, I took the test, and the day after that — just as I was fully fearing — the teacher stopped me at the door as the class was filing in to begin the day and marched me straight to the principal’s office. After presenting her accusations and hearing my denial, they demanded I retake the test in front of them.

I wish I could describe the bewildered looks on their faces after the teacher graded my test, only for me to score another “perfect” score. The teacher then tried asking questions from the test out of order and then rewording the questions to trip me up into giving an incorrect answer. Then, suddenly, she flung the test down.

Teacher: “He’s not even hesitating to answer or taking any time to think!”

I ended walking out of that office feeling like Billy Bada**.

She later did give me the $20 — begrudgingly, with an “I know you did something” look on her face.

Does the story end there? Unfortunately for me… no. For the rest of the school year, every time a science test was approaching, the teacher would announce the date of the test, and would always end the announcement this way.

Teacher: *Ominously* “And I expect a certain someone in this classroom to score no less than 100%, or he will be in more trouble than he has even been in in his entire life!”

And for the rest of the school year, I made science my number one subject to focus 90% of my attention on, and I would spend hours frantically studying for each approaching test — far too terrified to score less than 100% each time. Once, I scored a 95% and nearly pissed myself.

Disclaimer: Cheating on schoolwork is something I now as an adult do not condone; you are only robbing yourself. I am only laughing at the humor of this situation which occurred nearly thirty years ago.

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A Pitiful Attempt To Be Understanding

, , , , , | Learning | May 14, 2021

I’m a college sophomore. I traveled abroad during the winter break. A couple of days into the new semester, I come down with a rather intense case of chickenpox. I never had it as a kid, so it knocks me out. I am basically stuck in bed with a head that feels like it’s going to explode and blisters everywhere, including inside my mouth and throat.

I call my department and fax them my doctor’s recommendation to stay away from the rest of humanity for a couple of weeks. They tell me not to worry; they will inform all my professors of my absence and I can make up any work as soon as I come back. I am incredibly grateful.

When I come back, I make sure to visit all my professors during office hours so I can catch up. All of them are incredibly gracious and helpful except my linguistics professor, who stands me up during his office hours.

Unable to find him anywhere, I go to his class. To my surprise, there is a test today. I very meekly go up to him and explain my situation.

Me: “I have been sick and absent for the past two weeks and had no idea there was a test. I don’t even know what material is covered on this test. The department assured me I could make up my absences as soon as I came back.”

The professor responds in the most condescending tone you can imagine.

Professor: “Oh, what a pity. Come to my office tomorrow and take the test.”

Me: “Professor, what material is being covered by the test?” 

Professor: “Oh. It’s chapter two and three.”

I go home, frantic, and spend all night devouring chapters two and three. I’m not a linguistics major, so this is not my cup of tea.

The next morning, I have barely slept, but I feel ready to at least pass the test. I walk to my professor’s office confidently. He hands me the test, and I sit down.

When I look at the paper in front of me, I recognize nothing. Absolutely nothing I studied is on this exam. I walk up to the professor.

Me: “Excuse me, sir. Is this the right test? The test you gave yesterday?”

Professor: “Oh, yes!”

Me: “I studied chapters two and three from the book, but they don’t have anything to do with what’s in the test.”

Professor: “Well, what I included in the test was all discussed in class and written on the board.”

Me: “But, sir, I was absent for two weeks due to illness, as I reminded you yesterday.”

He looks at me for a second.

Professor: “Oh, what a pity.”

He turned his glance away from me.

I went back to the desk, did what I could, and turned the test in, completely sure that I had failed. I had.

Knowing that I would probably fail the class, I decided to drop it and concentrate on catching up in the classes I know I could do well in. When I went back to my professor so he could sign the required form to allow me to do just that, he just looked at me and said, “Oh, what a pity,” as he signed.

I did retake the class and got a great grade. Linguistics is still not my cup of tea, but at least the second time around I got a professor that taught me more linguistics than “pity”.

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Set Your Expectations Higher

, , , , , , , , | Learning | April 15, 2021

I briefly worked as a teacher in one of the worst schools in the country. There were all kinds of social problems, including rampant drug abuse. One of the pupils decided to smoke cannabis to calm himself down before an exam; unfortunately, he smoked a rather large amount, so he was barely conscious when he filed into the exam hall.

Some minutes in, the teacher invigilating the exam observed that the boy’s exam paper had fallen on the floor and he was busily writing on the table. There was some anxiety as to whether this might mean that the table would have to be sent in to be marked, but thankfully, on examination — pun definitely intended — it was ascertained that what he had written on the table had nothing whatsoever to do with the exam paper or even its subject.

That was good, because the exam board would not have appreciated having a tabletop sent in for marking.

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