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Give Students Room To Flourish, And They Usually Do

, , , , , , | Learning | February 12, 2021

I teach gifted kids, and contrary to the stereotype, some of them have academic disabilities compounded by anxiety, ADHD, and autism, to name a few. A student of mine, an eighth-grader, has documented anxiety and ADHD with accommodations. [Student] had a math teacher who insisted that they were playing the system. [Teacher] regularly refused to give [Student] the time allotted for tests in the accommodations, despite begging from me, calls from parents, and being called into the principal’s office.

In one of our go-arounds, [Teacher] claimed not to have the time to allow [Student] to finish tests because of the next classes coming in, and [Teacher] didn’t want cheating by looking problems up between class and study hall. I offered to escort [Student] from [Teacher’s] room to mine, and that was okay.

I set [Student] up in a secluded corner of my room and they went to work… and work… and work. I had students after my prep period, so I warned [Student] that other students would be coming in.

I was about halfway through my lesson with some sixth graders, and I asked a question.

Me: “What were Archimedes’ last words?”


Right before I was about to answer, a disembodied voice came from the secluded corner of my room.

Student: “Don’t disturb my circles!”

At least I knew the eighth-grader listened when in sixth grade! And they aced the math test.

Further Training Needed

, , , , , | Learning | December 24, 2020

I have a written drivers’ ed test in high school. Typical of standard written tests, you are not supposed to write on the actual test papers but supply a separate sheet with the question numbers followed by your written answers. This is stated multiple times and is written on the top of the test question sheets in big, bold type.

All is going fine, but I then come across the following question:

Exam: “You are driving and your car stalls on railroad tracks. There is no train coming. Do you: A) Run towards the train? or B) Run away from the train?”

I have to stop and reread that one. Then, I quietly snicker.

I circle the question on the test paper, and on my separate written answer sheet, I write my response.

Response: “C) Push the car off of tracks, because there was no train. If there WAS a train, I would then A) Run towards the train, so as to avoid flying debris.”

Of course, the test proctor yells at me when the test paper is returned with the circled question.

Proctor: “Don’t you pay attention?! You were not supposed to mark on the test sheet!”

Me: “Read the question!”

After they do, I get a very sheepish reply.

Proctor: “Oh… Umm, you got that answer right.”

And, technically, it was indeed right; you run at an angle away from the tracks but in the direction the train is coming from, to avoid the flying debris from it striking your car.

The Answer Sheet’s No Good If You’re Too Stupid To Use It

, , , , , , | Learning | December 14, 2020

One day in college, the teacher stapled answer sheets to the back of every test by mistake. A few minutes after passing the tests around, his phone rings and he steps out. Everyone has noticed the answer sheet, and we decide that we will all use it and tear it off after. Hopefully, he will never notice.

I check each of the answers and they are all correct except for the last one. We are to draw a flowchart for a process.

Answer Sheet: “Answers will vary.”

I draw my flowchart, tear off the answer sheet, and walk to the front podium to turn the test in. When I get to the podium, I have to know. I need to see what everyone else drew for their flowcharts. On every single test:

Student: “Answers will vary.”

This story is part of our Best Of December 2020 roundup!

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Learning How To Swab The Deck

, , , , | Working | November 11, 2020

I am starting a new job caring for adults with learning disabilities. There is training to be completed as part of my induction, especially in regard to hazardous chemicals used for cleaning.

The training includes some “exams.” Thankfully, I am completing the training at home, as I can’t keep a straight face when I see these questions.

Question: “What does a ‘skull and crossbones’ chemical hazard symbol mean?”

Answers: “A) Corrosive, B) Flammable, C) Toxic, D) Used by pirates.”

Yes, “used by pirates.”

Question: “Do you know where the Material Safety Data Sheets are kept?”

Answers: “A) Yes, B) No.”

I wonder how they are going to mark this.

And Y’all Thought New Math Was A Pain

, , , , , | Learning | November 11, 2020

Back in March 2020, New Zealand went into its first lockdown. The university had to very quickly take courses that had been taught fully in person with few resources other than lectures and transition them into something that could be provided online, and for the most part, they did a great job under that extreme pressure.

But the rapid transition caused some fun quirks in the system.

We came to the first big exam of one of the most academically challenging courses of the whole degree.

The questions were all in multi-choice format so it could be all marked by computer. And because it was marked by computer, as soon as you finished the exam and your two-hour timer ran out, it immediately automatically showed you your mark, and you could look through the correct answers and see what you did wrong.

Only there was one small problem.

As with paper exams, online exams are set up so you can mark questions you’re unsure of and move on, coming back to them later, so you can manage your exam time by answering the easy things first.

But there had been a glitch.

The back button between the different pages of the exam, for some inexplicable reason, did not work. Once you moved on to the next questions, there was no going back to change or even check what you had answered.

The lecturers were obviously inundated with frantic emails from students.

Student #1: “I wanted to check my answers before I submitted the exam, but I couldn’t go back! And I skipped a couple to go back to, and now I can’t answer them at all!”

Student #2: “I made a point to carefully read all of the questions on the test before I started on them, but I couldn’t go back at all. I was forced to submit an empty exam! Help!”

These students weren’t alone; many had done the same things and met the same issue.

So, what choice did the lecturers have?

They called IT, they fixed the glitch, and they reopened the exam. Instead of us all doing it in the two hours between noon and two pm, now we all had until nine pm to retake it.

Thus, we retook the exam of the most challenging exam in the whole degree… after they had shown us the answers.

Online learning was definitely more of a learning curve for the university than the students.