We are in their Hands, Sadly Enough

It’s frightening to think about the people that become teachers. This subject comes up because I proctor the CBEST and CSET exams and the next CSET is the day after Halloween (which really sucks for a college student). We wake up at 5AM to get to the testing site and have a systematic way of doing things to make it as consistent and equal for everyone so that no one has a greater advantage than someone else. So for those of us that have been doing this a while– I’ve been doing this for almost 4 years now– we get a little put off when things don’t go smoothly. As a somewhat long time employee of National Evaluation, I’ve pretty much figured out who is going to give me trouble just by participating in the sign-in process.

Sign-in Part One:

Examinees come in through the controlled front entrance, are informed of food and water bottle policy and about what to look at on their admission ticket to find their room and seat number. This information is already on the website when they sign up for the exam, mind you, but we still have lost people every exam day. There are never more than ten rooms either so I’m not sure where they go to get lost. Whatever. This is not my part of the job. This is for the Head Proctor, the CTA, the Assistant CTA, and the hall monitors. So these are the top gals and guys directing everyone and they are very clear on their instructions. Here is where is gets fun. I sit in my exam room, with seat labels and answer documents set out on the desks waiting for everyone to come in, find their assigned seat, and get ready for the exam by taking everything off their desks and sitting quietly. The first few examinees are usually fine. They come in and figure out by the labels on the desk that there are assigned seats. They are usually the ones listening to the CTA considering they found the room first. Then the next wave come in. They are the ones that half-listen. They heard the part about the room number, but not about the seats. So they just sit anywhere and then get upset when the answer sheet on the desk doesn’t have their name on it (?). The third wave comes in. These are the lost and late ones. Some are in the wrong room. Actually a lot are in the wrong room. And I usually don’t find this out until I’m signing them in and I don’t see them on the sign-in sheet. And they are usually confusing and stressing out a late person because they are in someone else’s seat. So the person that has no seat thinks they are there on the wrong day, wrong time, etc and are preparing themselves for an embarassing scenario when it’s really the fault of the idiot that can’t read English. The late ones bitch to me about how this damn school is so damn hard to find and they couldn’t find any damn parking. The email directions clearly state that you should give yourself enough time to compensate for any hindrances or unexpected parking situations. It is not our fault you can’t read a map.

Sign-in Part Two:

Everyone is seated and I start the actual sign-in/fingerprinting process. I receive a sign-in sheet along with a box full of booklets and answer sheets when I arrive to the testing site. So all I need to do is ID everyone, check signatures, and fingerprint. This part is usually fine, but I have those few people that, once again, can’t read the directions online and either didn’t register under the right name, didn’t bring pencils/sharpeners/erasers/etc, or don’t have acceptable idenification. Category one: Being in the LA area a lot of Hispanics test at our site and have many last names. Sometimes they don’t register the right last name or they registered their first name as a nickname. So to their inconvenience we send them to the front desk to have the CTA sort it out, delaying the sign-in process. People also forget to register their Jr. or Sr. or III status, when their ID indicates such and we can’t let them test unless they prove they aren’t the Sr. to the Jr. Category Two: This may sound trivial, but it is actually extremely annoying. While I’m signing people in they ask to borrow a pencil. I am given one pencil in the morning to sign people in and fill out my own employee documents. One only. It is expected if you are taking a scan tron exam that you should BRING your OWN pencils. I think that is more than expected by the company, it’s just a social norm. They must then rely on the mercy of other examinees to let them borrow or have pencils because they were idiots and didn’t bring any of their own (do we really want these people teaching our children? “I forgot my textbook… can I borrow yours? Oh, what are we learning about today? I forgot…” Really?). Category Three: We are only allowed to accept identification that is in English. Period. I don’t understand why people think passports in Thai, Spanish, Hindi, or Vietnamese are OK. We are in AMERICA. The least multi-lingual country there is. Come on now.

Test Directions:

After everyone is signed in I read the testing directions. I am given a script. I read it verbatim. This part is usually alright, except when I have one of those control freaks that interrupts to ask a million questions when I clearly am about to cover everything that goes on with the exam before we start. I only have another 3 pages in my hand that need reading. The part that does irk me is the ‘clear everything off your desks’ part. Everything means everything, except when there are exceptions. I clearly give those exceptions as printed in my directions. ‘Please clear everything off your desks EXCEPT pencils, erasers, and answer documents.” I’ve been doing this so long I’ve practically memorized the script. Of course, people don’t listen even when they are hearing me. They have water bottles out, watches, scrap paper– I’ve even seen someone try to get away with a portable dictionary. No. So I have to grit my teeth and be specific to every individual not abiding by the rules of test participation. Purses underneath your desk. Put your watch on your wrist. Tissues in your pocket. Water on the floor. Purses UNDERNEATH your desk. Study guides and papers up front next to me. Put your damn purse underneath your desk woman! I don’t want to trip over it as I’m walking around the room or have it too easy for you to peek in there. Gotta love a challenge. It’s character building. I don’t understand how difficult these concepts are. Your children probably won’t either.

Exam Time:

This is the nice part. I can just sit and relax, not have to worry about being bothered or talked at. Just sit and watch… for five hours. The only time this gets intense is when people are uptight about the testing environment i.e. weather, room noises, other examinees movements/nervous habits, lighting, comfortability, personal space… a lot of things can bother a person apparently. I’ve had a man stuff tissue in his ears because they guy in front of him kept scratch his legs and it was making too much noise for him. I’ve had a woman threaten to report me because it was hot in the room and I wouldn’t call someone to bring a fan (there were no fans because is was DAMN hot and I would’ve already had one in there if I could have). I’ve had someone decided to get up and wander the room and look at the posters for inspiration for his essay (they aren’t allowed to get up unless they need to use the restroom). While some other examinee was already in the restroom I’ve had a grown man tell me if I didn’t let him leave the room that second he was going to piss himself. Ironically enough no one had yet used the bathroom all morning until this one pregnant woman left. He had sympathy needs for urination apparently. I’ve also had a woman gasp loudly and almost start screaming when there was the tiniest spider on MY desk, which was in front of hers, and beg me to kill it. I was literally the size of a freckle. A very small freckle. I’ve had someone ask me to tell the schools soccer team to quiet it down because the players on the field on the opposite side of the school were making too much noise for him to concentrate. I’ve also had someone ask me to explain how to fill in bubbles on the answer document. And many more…

Ending the Exam:

At the end of five hours, I call time. I politely let everyone know that it is time to put down all pencils and close the test books. I get a lot of problems here. People don’t understand that five hours is five hours. You don’t get anymore time than that. You should have managed your time better if you didn’t finish. You will expect the same of your students, so the standard goes for you too. I’ve had a man call me a racist (He was Filipino and I look very Asian, so I didn’t understand this) because he thought I ended the time an hour early. The time was written up on the board the whole duration of the exam. Whatever. He was irate. I was annoyed and indifferent. Such is life.

Basically, the future of education lies in the hands of people that don’t listen to directions, aren’t prepared for the tasks at hand, get an attitude when people tell them they are wrong, make excuses for things they were responsible for, and have to come back multiple times to pass these exams. Sounds like your everyday lazy, uncommitted, apathetic college student. Fabulous.

To those that are striving to be teachers, be better. Pay attention, be attentive, and lead by example. Kids are smart, and they can see through your bullshit.

To those that fail at becoming teachers, give waiting tables a try. It will get your attention span, attentiveness, and attitude in check. Customers are stupid so you get the chance to exert your intelligence (what little you may have) behind their backs and learn how to manipulate the general public into thinking you’re amazing. Or maybe that’s just me.

What can we learn from this? If you have the patience, home-school your kids. I would say put them in private school, but remember that private schools are not exempt from this ‘dumb teacher’ epidemic. Many private schools do not require credentials or a complete university degree to teach a subject. I hope you look up the best damn school in the neighborhood that is very picky about their hiring standards.  And if there isn’t one in the neighborhood, move to a place that has a good one, because it is that important.

Until next time.

-JS

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