The Star Pupil

, , , , , , | Learning | August 29, 2019

(I’ve gotten the results back from a quiz in my geography class. I notice an answer marked wrong, and I am convinced I answered correctly. In my righteous indignation, I grab two different encyclopedia volumes and do research to back me up before confronting the teacher. As I’m winding up for my big conclusion with him…)

Me: “I went and looked this up — twice! — and both sources said the same thing: at 4.2 light-years away, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Earth, except for the–”

(I’ve added the last part by simple rote, but I realize that it’s entirely correct and has completely undermined my argument; the question asked for the closest star to Earth. The teacher simply gives me a calm, patient smile, nodding.)

Me: “…I’ll just go sit down now.”

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A Testing Enrollment Process

, , , , , | Learning | July 1, 2019

(I am dropping off some paperwork at my son’s new school so he can begin first grade in the fall. The staff member helping me is shocked I don’t have any report cards from his time in a hybrid classroom/homeschool kindergarten. I’ve just finished explaining that the public charter school overseeing his schooling had an educational specialist meet with him monthly to evaluate his progress.)

Staff Member: “No report cards? But do you mean he didn’t get any grades?”

Me: “No report cards and no grades. But he did have monthly in-person evaluations with the charter school specialist.”

Staff Member: “But, but, but… What about tests? I’m sure he took tests. You know, where he wrote stuff down.”

Me: “Not that I know of. We didn’t do formal tests. But he had a monthly evaluation by the public charter school specialist.”

Staff Member: “But how do you know he was learning anything?”

Me: “His charter school evaluated him monthly to be sure he was keeping up to state standards, and I’ve been tracking his progress against state standards, too.”

Staff Member: “But, but, but… Who taught him?”

Me: “Two days a week he was in a classroom with other kids and a teacher, his dad taught him most subjects on other days, and I taught him reading.”

Staff Member: “Okay, but, but, but… Tests. He had to have taken some tests. How did you know how he was doing in school?”

Me: “His charter school regularly evaluated him against the state standards, and so did I.”

Staff Member: “But what about reading? How do you know he can read?”

Me: “Because I can put a book in front of him and he reads it to me.”

Staff Member: “But, but, but… How do you know he understands what he’s reading?”

Me: “Because he interacts with what he’s reading in an understanding way.”

Staff Member: “But, but, but… What about tests?”

(Should I be worried about this fixation on tests?!)

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Not The Perfect Way Of Announcing Perfection

, , , , , | Learning | May 23, 2019

Chemistry Teacher: “I believe that if all my students fail an exam, it is my fault. I have obviously not taught the course well enough, and I won’t punish you for my mistakes. Thus, I grade on a curve. For example, say the highest score was 80/100. I will add 20 points to everyone’s scores. If the highest score is 99/100, I will add 1 point to everyone’s score. Does everyone understand this?”

Students: *all nodding*

Chemistry Teacher: “For our first exam of the year, I thought I had made a mistake. So many of you had failed! But I now see that you weren’t paying attention. [My Name] was able to get a perfect score on the exam. There’s no excuse for the rest of you. I’m so disappointed. This is one of eight exams for this semester. In other words, about 10% of your overall grade. Do better next time. [My Name], congratulations.”

(She handed me the test as I shrunk into my seat. The whole class was glaring at me. That was not a fun course.)

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The Test Is Testing Way Before The Test

, , , , , | Learning | May 8, 2019

(I’m teaching a high-school government class. As with most teachers, I have a few students who can be stubborn about doing their work, but one especially stubborn girl drives me crazy. This is just one occasion. On Thursday:)

Me: “The test will be tomorrow. For today, we’re going to play a review game to make sure everyone knows the material. You can take notes during the review game, and use those notes on the test. You cannot use your textbook or your regular notes.”

Stubborn Girl: “Why does the test have to be on Friday? Fridays are the worst day for tests. Can’t you change it?”

Me: “Nope. We have to keep to the schedule set by the school.”

Stubborn Girl: “Can we at least use our notes on the test?”

Me: “You can use the notes you take during the review game today, but not the notes you took during the unit.”

Stubborn Girl: “What about our textbook?”

Me: “Nope. Just take notes during the review game, and you’ll have all the answers for the test.”

Stubborn Girl: *trying to be sarcastic* “What if I just write down everything you say today and use that, huh?”

Me: “Perfect! That’s exactly what I want you to do! Let’s start the review game.”

(We play the review game. Naturally, [Stubborn Girl] refuses to take notes. On Friday:)

Me: “Okay, let’s get this test started.”

Stubborn Girl: “You should change the test to Monday so we can study over the weekend.”

Me: “I told you, I can’t do that. Do you have your notes from the review game yesterday?”

Stubborn Girl: “No, because you said we couldn’t use our notes for the test!”

Me: “I said you can’t use your regular notes from the unit, but your review game notes were okay.”

Stubborn Girl: “Well, I didn’t take notes because you said we couldn’t use our notes. Whatever. I guess I’ll just fail the test, then.”

(I had to bite my tongue really hard to keep from making any remarks that might cause her to complain to the principal about me. Not surprisingly, she did fail the test, as well as the class. As a teacher, I obviously don’t like it when students fail my classes, but this girl failing didn’t bother me at all.)

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Stupidity Is Esca-latin

, , , , , , , | Learning | May 1, 2019

This story is from the 1990s, back when I was at university. Certain exams went like this: there would be a few people at a time in a professor’s study, each would draw a ticket from a tray and had to speak about whatever was on the ticket. One person would be speaking, while the others jotted down notes on their own topics, organized their thoughts, or otherwise prepared for their turn.

This particular exam was in general linguistics and was taught by a guy everyone feared, because it was common knowledge he failed people for the tiniest mistakes, took his subject extremely seriously, and expected the same from everyone else. He was also a bit of a giant, physically; he was very tall and bulky, had a permanent stony expression, and spoke with the coldest voice all the time, and was generally quite intimidating.

In his exam, each ticket also contained a couple of languages we were supposed to say a few words about. I was in the study, busy writing down notes on whatever I drew from the tray and waiting my turn, while a girl started speaking about the first language in her ticket, which happened to be Latin.

“So, Latin… Well, obviously it is spoken in Latin America…”

The professor went bright red, leaned over the desk, and basically — the huge mountain of a man that he is — loomed over her like he was going to drop on her and squash her at any moment. Or explode. I mean, I could see him literally shaking as he yelled, “What?!

She wasn’t even allowed to start on her topics; he ordered her to leave immediately and wouldn’t hear another word from her. He calmed down a bit after she left, and to be honest, he was completely fair with the rest of us that day, and I passed with top marks. The story about the girl with “Latin in Latin America” is now told as part of the local academic “dumbest things students have said” folklore, and some people think it’s made up until I mention that I actually witnessed it.

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