To new math teachers, this sort of stress only compares to that getting injected with a thin, long needle for the first time or sitting in a dentist’s chair with your mouth full of something-caine waiting for a root canal. You know it’s going to benefit you in the long run just to be over it, but the the closer you get to the moment, the more you’d prefer to piss your pants in public. Even for veteran teachers like us (Us?), our feet still tap nervously if we actually care about the results of a yearlong struggle between teacher culpability and student capability.
That is to say, FACK!
Fack isn’t the first word that comes out of our mouths when we realize that seven months have passed by and we didn’t go over a specific standard we should have looked at more rigidly in class. Mainly because we tend not to curse in front of kids. Rather, we mumble something inaudible and just hope our principal doesn’t walk into a session where the students give us a blank stare after we thought we rocked a hard lesson. These moments and more get shoved into less than 40 questions of varying difficulty and response, none of which include “How was your day? and “What’s the number on your pencil? Are you sure?” None of the directions in the book mention “Take out your binder” or “Why do I constantly have to talk to you about getting focused?”
Rather than get depressed about dead-man-walking feeling the day before these students take their exams, here’s 5 ways to deal with the anxiety / pain / nervousness of what’s to come:
5) Pace around your classroom 30 minutes before class and try to remember the speech where you’re reassuring them. Hopefully it sounds something like this. “Ladies and gentlemen, hope you rested well and ate good breakfast. I know the Laker game went on ’til 130 last night, so I can’t blame you all for looking like weary sailors, but at least for the love of Christ, show all your work. Especially if it tells you to. Calm down because this is only the biggest test of the year and possibly the rest of your lives. My livelihood now depends on it, so if you like me, you’ll do me this one solid, thanks. And another thing, make sure you carry out the coefficients through the parentheses, add-the-exponents-but-not-all-of-them-change-the-percent-to-a-decimal-scale-the-graphs-right-and-and-and<riiiing> NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” Fuckingshizzelgotdamnitsonofamothergun …
4) Cough intermittently with sounds that approximate the right answers on the test. I’d work on that now while you’re reading this. the veteran teachers have already perfected this art when learning how to call some parents out on their crap or get annoyed at the assistant principal who had no idea what a math standard looked like. It’s the same principle. Bring a box of tissues and tell the programmer that you’ll survive the periods and they’ll leave you alone. Insert evil laughter here. (And this is why I’m not proctoring the test, guys.)
3) Doodle all over the teacher’s directions in the back. If it’s good enough for the kids, it’s good enough for you. Draw a bunch of stick figures representing you and your class in their various stages of exam neurosis. Depict the kids anywhere from sleepy and apathetic to restless and creative (meaning they’re drawing as much as you are). Accentuate the picture with bubble quotes, zzz’s, and one of your infamous quotes, and use someone’s name that you always call. Then, after you’ve packed up the test, leave a little note saying, “The kids did it.” They never read those things anyways. Of that I’m sure.
2) Placate yourself by asking the students whether they found the test easy, so-so, or hard. They tend to be way off about how they did except the kids who thought it was really hard. It’s no disrespect to your more astute kids, but the average kids doesn’t have the theory of relativity down to an art yet. They tell you it’s easy, but only answer about 1/2 the answer right. And that one kid who jumped in his seat after saying this was an extremely easy test? He’s the one who answered B-C-B-C for Every. Single. Answer.
1) Don’t ever be ashamed of using some of that extra money for a Corona or rum and coke. Forget a tie or a ceramic apple. Why not a shot of something translucent and syrupy? If you’re a lightweight, don’t embarrass the rest of us by having too many drinks. We have reputations to uphold. Besides, just a little alcohol should drown the butterflies in your stomach, or any other critters willing to roam the sinewy wines of a crazy person. The assumption that this test is just so important to people who live in the real world would put just enough pressure on someone who’s job depends on it to drinking a few. More than necessary.
You can always just calm the hell down and realize that your entire being doesn’t revolve around this test and as you grow in this profession, you’ll get better at assessing students’ needs and look at your pedagogy more in depth, honing in one the parts that you struggled with all season. But you’re not. Because you care whether your students pass or not.
So cheers to you, my friend. When I hear the rounds of pejoratives yelled out the classroom windows all across America, I know my blog post had a little to do with this stress reliever. Fack.
Mr. Vilson, who is having as much fun as you are, I swear …