Ok, just raise your hands, everyone, when I ask you this question: Who doesn’t love standardized state tests? Ok, everyone, put your hands down. EVERYONE, PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN! Let me tell all you mouth breathers in the audience, they can be fun……..for teachers.
Teachers get some days off. Teachers get to act like they are grading papers during these hours of silence, when they are actually e-mailing their girlfriend in Seattle, or even a girlfriend working at the school. This is a glorious time when teachers get to text, use I Phones, I Pads and Maxy Pads without any of the students being aware of anything. It’s terrific because those students are completely oblivious as to what the teacher is doing. They’re simply terrified because they actually believe this seventh or eighth grade test will determine their wealth and fame in life. It’s a time when a student loses all hope and faith in themselves, our country and the Metric System. (Are we still using that ridiculous system?)
Sadly, the fun has to end for some teachers on this day of reckoning. Many students end the scheduled six hour test in five minutes. This means two of two things. After looking at the test, the students say to themselves, “F this noise”, or, ” I’m not even going to entertain the notion that I can pass this ridiculously biased test”, thus presenting a dilemma for the teacher, who after administering the test, must be burdened by the idea of keeping a student busy for the next silent five hours and fifty five minutes. I developed a cure for the disease of boredom for twelve and thirteen year olds. “Hocus Focus”.
A long time ago, in a land far to close, I was a full time employee and part time teacher at a very respected school district. With some of my closest friends, we had to maintain our own sanity when witnessing students giving up on these tests before they even began. I didn’t blame some of them. I felt sorry for them. Therefore, I broke out what I called “The Old Fashion”. For some people, that means a doughnut. For drunks, it’s a wake up drink, or “hair of the dog”. For teachers, it was “Hocus Focus”. These are two pictures you can provide on an overhead projector displaying similar scenes where you are forced to find the differences. These students who finished the test in five minutes would work on these picture puzzles for another five minutes. They would have to find ten differences in the pictures. Examples: bad hairline in one pic, full head of hair in the other, child in one yard giving the “I’m number one finger” and child in the other yard giving the “middle finger”, a father barbecuing with a can of beer in one pic, and a father barbecuing with a bottle of vodka in the other. These were great teaching tools. Sadly, they hit so close to home plate for many of these students, I could not print enough of these pictures off because they were so good at finding the differences, and they loved it. This is when a bad teacher becomes a clever teacher. This is an ancient Irish secret: I printed off two identical pictures and told them they must find the ten differences. They spent the next five hours and thirteen minutes working on that project.
I never gave them the answers, because there were none…..just like some of the questions on that dreadful test they were so subjectively forced to take. I hope they get the important answers in life correct someday.
(This is written with much respect to all teachers, especially the ones I sort of worked with for fifteen years, and with no respect to the administration level and the people who didn’t have to be in those rooms for so many years…….)