March 21, 2013

A Day in the Life: State Testing Edition

7:10 am Arrive at school, check in with the teacher across the hall because I forgot what room I'm supposed to report to, and she already has her email open.  Unlock my classroom, double check everything is cleared away for the people who will be there and grab a pile of grading.

7:20 am Show up in my testing room, greet students.  Happily, when I scanned the list I recognized most of the names (8 out of 10- I have a small group because they have learning disabilities and so get special accommodations).  It's much easier to convince kids to be on your side if you know them!  Testing for 3 hours (today! more tomorrow!) isn't fun for any of us so fights can turn into a huge headache.  The only student I was worried about seems to be in a good mood.

7:30 am Start passing out papers while one of the other proctors begins reading the script.  Realize while looking over IEP's that I'm "familiar test administrator" for most of them- no wonder I know so many kids!  This is my favorite job, all I have to do is be present in the room.  Other accommodations are difficult or annoying- proctoring kids who type their essays or being a scribe requires a lot of extra work on the teacher's part.  Easing anxiety just by being me? Awesome.  Also awesome: everyone gave me their cell phone without complaint!

8:00 am Everyone is settled in and I find a corner where I can see the whole room but also have a bit of desk space.  I do a bit of light grading (reading journals) while frequently scanning the room.  One accommodation most students in this room have is "track test items" which means I have to make sure they're bubbling in the right spot.  I keep waiting for people to start bubbling, and waiting... the first article they have to read is long!  Today is reading comprehension and it takes everyone quite a while to finish reading it through once, let alone start finding the answers to the questions.  I'm impressed with their focus and so happy that I'm done taking standardized tests for the foreseeable future, maybe even forever!

9:00 am I'm bored and some students are done with session 1 so I walk them to the bathroom to give them some time to stretch between sessions.  Only one kid is allowed in the bathroom at a time to prevent cheating, so I chat in a whisper with kids waiting in line.  Mostly they want to know what time they get to leave and to tell me that they feel like they're in prison when they can't have phones or go to the bathroom together.  I take a few more kids on walks, grade, stare at kids, stare into space, curse the heater for making weird noises and wish the clock would move faster.

10:00 am Principal makes an announcement that the testing period is over, but it's an un-timed test so this actually means it's time to shuffle students around the building.  Students who have finished both sections may go, students who haven't get escorted to the library/auditorium.  Everything has to be collected, alphabetized and recorded before they can go (of course).  One co-proctor does the escorting so I'm free to go!  Arrive back at my classroom intending to drop some things off and head to the tutoring center, but I'm intercepted by my department head.  My freedom was short-lived: I have to go to the auditorium to help with all the students who need more time.  Before I head back we admire the tin men my geometry students made earlier this week.

10:10 am In the auditorium students are sitting 2-3 per table with their backpacks all lined up in the front of the room.  An administrator takes a group of them to their lockers to get lunches/ID's while I get to play messenger between the library leader and the auditorium leader.  One student is getting dismissed for a doctor's appointment in an hour so that takes some debate but finally she's allowed to finish her test while everyone else has lunch.  Lunch is a supervised affair and I get bathroom duty again- still only one kid allowed at a time.  More comments on this being like prison.  We are kind prison guards though and let the kids who need to go urgently use the faculty restrooms.

10:55 am Everyone is shuffled back to the testing location and in the meantime their materials have been organized.  Testing resumes.  I get to continue to stare at children...  Even being on bathroom duty was more interesting than this.

11:09 am Bell rings, I race through the halls to beat my class to my classroom on the other side of the school.  Today I have juniors so I thought class would go fine- they didn't have to take the test this morning.  Turns out they either got extra sleep and so have extra energy, or came in to take a practice AP US History test and are drained.  Either way they were not in school mode.  We got a few things done but between the short class and lack of focus, not much.  This is especially frustrating because the same thing will happen on Monday (the next time I see this class, we're on an alternating day schedule), Wednesday is an early release day (more short class) and next Friday there isn't school.  Oh, and we missed Tuesday due to snow.  The classes I see today are really short on time for two entire weeks.

11:55 am Bell rings, I throw up the homework assignment at the last minute but don't feel bad about making them stay late since they were so unfocused!  The next class is the same as the first, except calmer.  They tell me they're my favorite class and I don't disagree.  One student points out it's because there are so many band kids and I tell them band kids are awesome.  We still don't have time to get through much math, but at least I leave this class feeling happier.

12:42 pm Bell rings, this time the homework was already up so no scrambling.  I put attendance in for both classes (there wasn't time before!) and chat with another teacher on the way up to lunch.  We're starving since lunch is 45 minutes late due to the testing.  I run into my co-teacher and she's had a crazier day than I have so we decide to skip meeting next block and get caught up on our own work.  Lunch with mostly math teachers- we whine about testing and the weather (it starts snowing as we're sitting there) and have an interesting conversation about cheating.

1:12 pm Bell rings, lunch is over!  I'm determined to get my online gradebook caught up.  I spent the snow day grading but still haven't gotten things into the computer.  As I start entering assignments I learn that I haven't input any grades in March!  I was sick for a week and a half, today is the first day I'm not totally exhausted.  It's amazing what a backlog I had after leaving as early as possible after school for a week.

2:02 pm Bell rings, school day is officially over.  I accomplished my goal of getting all the grades updated, but I didn't get to look them over or decide how to share the information with my students.  The teacher next door pokes her head in to say hi so I make her wait by the door so I can run out to my car (I forgot all the cylinders I collected for belated pi day tomorrow).  Special ed teacher stops by to ask some questions about the math test she has to take to transfer her license from Maryland to Massachusetts- I have worked with another teacher on this same test and the questions are so strange!  It's not that she doesn't understand the math, it's the awkward phrasing and unusual methods that are confusing.  We figure them out and she understands now; yet again I'm thankful to be done with test taking.

2:35 pm A student shows up to retake a test.  He wants an 80% without doing homework which is possible, but not with his other grades, so he concedes to doing the homework.  The teacher next door stops in to say goodbye and I make her help me count out the 100 foot track in the hall (for rolling cylinders to calculate circumference).  Have you noticed I make the teacher next door help me a lot?  Thanks Kelly!  I clean up my room and find the surface of my desk (mostly by piling textbooks higher and moving geometry tools to the floor- but I have the surface available now!).  On the way out of the building my phone buzzes- I have cell service for the first time and a message from the grocery store- donation request approved!  I stop by Target for tape and pencils, we've been going through both like crazy this week (I like the Target pencils that are white with colorful tips because no one else has them and I can ask for them back at the end of class).  Then on to the grocery store- I chat with the manager about pi day, ask if he remembered to wear his pi(e) shirt this year and learn that Shaws was just bought out.  It's nice to have built a relationship with him, he's come to expect my request since this is the third year and wishes he was allowed to give us more than 25 dollars.  I buy 7 pies for my 60 geometry students (sweet potato, 2 pumpkin, apple, lemon, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb) which only costs me $12 of my own money, success!  (In the past I've paid more but I have 3 classes this year instead of four and one only has 16 students.)  Calculating pi will be a fun way to get students to do a bit of math after the test tomorrow, and eating pie is a nice way to celebrate their hard work on the exam.

4:30 pm Arrive home, collect forks and plates, and finally crash onto the couch.  Begin catching up on everything I missed on the edutwitterblogosphere today.


  1. love the shout-out haha but you help me a lot too so its cool :-)

  2. Love this! Thank you for reminding me of the peripheral benefits of testing days. Even though they suck up lots of time, they give us breathing space to really notice kids.

    - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)