Monday, June 17, 2013

The Exam

It was the kind of exam where you only have one sip of water.  At the beginning.  While you are trying like a mad-woman to gather your scattered thoughts and tie them into some semblance of order, like trying to catch feathers on the winds of a hurricane.

The sort of exam where you get writers cramp before you've written even a quarter of what you need to...maybe even only an eighth, and you're wondering if the marker is going to be able to read the rambling scrawl that you dare to call writing.  You've used shorthand while working out what you will write, but will they realise if you keep writing MN for Miss Nancy?  Probably better not.  Probably isn't good exam form.  So you write it all out in full form, painstakingly, trying to keep it legible but succeeding less and less as the minutes tick remorselessly past and you try to write faster, faster, faster, frenetically trying to finish before you're told you have to put down your pen.

The kind of exam that you read the questions at the beginning, then read them again.  And again.  And again. Each time hoping that maybe you read them wrong and they really are simpler than you thought at first.

But despite this fervent wish and vigorous rubbing of eyes you discover that no, you read right.  The questions really ARE that hard.  They really ARE wanting that much detail.

Good thing you didn't know last night.  You might not have slept.  Good thing you didn't know this afternoon.  You might not have gone on that walk.  And let's be frank.  You needed the sleep and you needed the walk.  And studying instead of doing either of those was not going to make that much difference.

Because the real issue, the crucial point, is not how hard the exam is.  Sure, it's THAT kind of exam.  But the real issue is that you are in THAT kind of state.  The state now known as PPE.  A term known only to teacher education students: Post-Practicum-Exhaustion.  Those students who throw themselves full-tilt into teaching placements (as all good teachers should) survive the experience (by the skin of their teeth) only to find themselves, two weeks later, so exhausted that they have trouble putting food on the table or remembering what day of the week it is.  They hand in their essay and then wonder what on earth they should study for their upcoming exam.  What were we reading about before Placement?  Where are my books?  What is my name?  (seriously - PPE can be that bad!)  It's really not fair.  Expecting poor students to survive Prac, hand in the related essay, and then a week later sit a monster exam.

So this is what you get when you combine an open book exam with PPE?  And by open book, you really should be saying "open books" seeing as there were so many of them.  The combination of poetry, rhymes, as many as 8 picture books, Grimms fairy tales, 4 compulsory chapter books, and 4 optional ones makes for some serious reading material and a rather large pile to accompany you into the exam room.  No wonder the ladies saw you coming and said, "You must be doing that open book exam!"

You might have felt like boosting your confidence walking in that open books exams are easy.  But you'd be lying.  Lying, lying, lying.  Open book exams are hard.  The level of application, the depth of understanding, the volume of sheer words required, these things are horrifically hard.  Even for someone who usually does exams pretty well, having to come up with all that in a three hour session, on the spot, is tough.  No pressure.  No pressure.  Just three hours and three questions, screeds and screeds of extra note paper, a cramped hand, an even more cramped brain, and post-it-notes left, right, and centre.  Thank God for post-it-notes and being allowed to have ANY form of memory assistance in an exam!

The exam is done.  You survived it.  Pat on the back.  Chocolate fish award.  You should pass.  You do know your stuff, even if it didn't come out of that tired ole brain of yours all that well.  So what if one question only got fifteen minutes?!!  At least you answered it!  So what if there were quite a few crossing-outs and it didn't flow really well.  It's not an essay, after all.  It's an exam.  A three hour exam in which you could have spent all three hours answering one question.  You answered three.  That's gotta count for some marks at least!

And now you can give in to PPE for two and a half blissful weeks.  Well, sort of.  There is that to-do list lurking somewhere or other.


ps - this exam was the culmination of a semester of EXCELLENT inquiry.  The material covered, the lecturer's enthusiasm and dedication, the discussion of differing viewpoints, and some SERIOUSLY good children's books, all made for a fabulous paper.  I will really miss this paper (Children's Literature), but I will NOT miss the exam.  This I will probably tell my lovely lecturer.  Grin.

1 comment:

MaxineD said...

At least you survived!! And answered all three questions! After a sleep and a walk, which were essential for mental health!
Love and blessings