Exams don’t only test the students. I’ve learned that they also test the teachers–at least in Armenia, they certainly tested this teacher!
The very first computer exam I sat in on, after my first semester at the college, was an intense learning experience for me. Granted, I now realize that my counterparts were figuring it out along with me, as this was the first practical, hands-on exam they had ever given. Over the two years, exam day got better, although in my opinion, they still have a little way to go.
But that first exam. Wow. One student after another sat at the computer which was hooked up to the projector, and tried to make something happen in Photoshop or Excel. And one after another turned their pleading eyes on me and my counterparts, asking for help. And they received help. Not from me; I refused, with pursed lips and folded arms and an ever-deepening scowl on my face. I got angrier and angrier as the cheating got worse and worse. My counterparts helped, and the other students helped. And the entire day, for me, was general confusion and chaos–not the tidy, silent, studious atmosphere of exams that I was used to.
After the computer portion, the students had to recite… something. I still don’t know what exactly. Something about computers, I imagine. Something they had copied down from the teacher at some point over the semester. I don’t know how they did in remembering every word, but I imagine that part was at least okay, because out of a possible 5 points on the entire exam, every single student received either a 4 or a 5.
My counterparts tease me now, about my reaction to that first exam. I wanted so badly to punch the wall and run out, screaming in frustration. I tried to hold my temper, but they could tell I was struggling. I’m not an angry person by nature, so you can imagine how much this upset me.
I was a straight-A student in school, and took education very seriously, especially exams. I prided myself in always doing my own work, my own studying, and coming to every exam fully prepared. Although easy, I hated the exams that were duplicates of practice exams because they didn’t actually check your knowledge. Instead they were simple regurgitations of your short-term memory skills and nothing else. I believed in earning your grade, and hated cheaters or those who tried to talk their way into a good grade. I still believe in those things, and had a very hard time holding my tongue when I saw some unsavory exam practices going on.
For subsequent exams, my counterparts were a little more prepared for my inflexible attitude. They still helped the students, but it was with an apologetic glance towards me, or a short explanation of why they needed to help with “one little thing.” They prepared the students a little better beforehand for the upcoming exams as well, so the students were able to perform more independently.
By the last exam day this past June, I was more or less prepared for what was to come. I resolved to approach it with good humor and a relaxed, positive attitude. And I started with my appearance.
Exam days are special occasions, and I had noticed that everyone seemed to dress up a little nicer on these days. So for my last exam, I went all out. I wore a skirt, which I hardly ever do. And I went to my friend the hairdresser, and let her doll me up, Armenian-style. I got my hair washed and “fanned” with a hairdryer, for at least 30 minutes, and then styled. My friend kept asking if she could give my hair more volume, or if she could give me some face cream, so I just told her, “Today, my hair is your hair, and my face is all yours. You can do whatever you want.” So she did.
When I arrived at the college, I was an immediate sensation. I had boys following me down the hall. I had teachers popping into the room, just to look at me. One of my students formally presented me to the rest of the class. People who had never said anything to me were coming up to me, telling me how stunning I looked. It was a riot! While I’m not one for wanting attention, it was fun for a day.
The actual exam started as a little bit of a mess, in my opinion. But it got better. Most of the students were well-prepared for the computer portion, and while there were a few mistakes, I chalked most of them up to nerves, because I had seen them do the tasks independently in the days leading up to the exam.
The one thing that still got to me, though, was the constant coming and going of the authority figures in the room. Teachers and other college staff came to sit and watch some portions, and then left (whether out of boredom or pressing engagements elsewhere, I had no idea). At one point, even I was invited out of the room, for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. I was flabbergasted, but bowed under the pressure, and left four students all by themselves in the room working.
It was very strange. It still confuses me. But as I said, I resolved to be relaxed and happy about this exam, so I ate my cake with pleasure, said my thank you’s and went back to the exam room.
The students all did well; they all received 4′s and 5′s.
I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
While not perfect, the last exam showed forward progress from the first one. And I can only hope that after I leave, some of my “exam spirit” will be left behind and students and teachers will have more “Evelyn-style” exams even without me there.
Next time: the day I gave an exam to my counterparts.
You might also like: