This morning, after a few sips of my coffee and getting ready for class, a cold sweat developed in the palms of my hand. I rubbed my hands a few times before I put the marker to the whiteboard, hoping the few examples of problems I do today serve less as a lesson and more as a fine tuning. Pacing the room 30 minutes before class made my feet ache, but I didn’t realize it until a few hours after, when my first three periods of class would be done.
Besides, tomorrow starts the Big Test, and the deluge of multiple-choice questions and extended-response is one that even the most hopeful of teachers and brilliant of students feel a little anxious about. Did I cover enough material? Did the material I cover have anything to do with what’s actually on the test? Will the conceptual questions dominate or will there be an even mix of conceptual and procedural?
More importantly, will all my kids have a good breakfast?
Will the one kid I know actually get to school in time to take it? Will the other one stop trying to go to the bathroom every period? Will the next one stop trying to make little noises, sharpen their pencil too often, or annoy the proctor, whoever it is? Will they have a chance to look over complementary, supplementary, vertical, alternate interior / exterior, and corresponding angles, or at least remember that, in this case, if they’re not equal, they probably add up to 90° or 180°?
Will my one student stop playing his faux-war games in favor of brushing up on some math? Will the other one actually try their absolute best, or think whatever they do is just good enough?
Do they not understand how well I want them to do on this thing? What am I saying? Do I even care about this stupid test? Is it really a measure of what they’ve learned this year or what they wanted them to learn and not learn? What if they were only one digit off? Do they have to conform to the state’s thinking to be good students? Good learners? Good people?
How harshly will they get judged by their superiors? By their parents? By their future high schools? Will they still feel OK about themselves as students after everyone keeps predicting that everyone won’t do very well?
Resigned to the idea that I can’t do much else from here, I wait for the deluge of news about this test, the inevitable errors, the omissions, the consternation from parents, the collective shaking of heads up and down New York State, the news reports from experts and professors talking about what teachers ought to do or haven’t done or can’t do or won’t do, and the hope that everyone would just shut the fuck up.
I’m trying to teach math here. All this other nonsense makes things harder to resolve.