In sixteen years of midterms and finals, Regents exams (New York) and CMT/CAPT exams (here in Connecticut), I have never walked away from an exam period feeling so battered and bruised.
Now, I'll admit, I'm sure the students feel twice as worn and weary as I do. They had to organize all of their materials and then study. And then, as a reward, they got to take all of those exams. And this, right after turning in all of the work they owed as it was the last week of the 2nd quarter. So, even those who didn't prepare well for exams (ie, organize, make a cheat sheet, bring a cheat sheet to school when the teacher allowed it) still had to sit through those hours of agony, reading multiple choice questions, addressing short answer topics, and attempting to formulate persuasive essays that weren't just five paragraphs worth of shoveled manure. Test takers of the world unite. You have my sympathy!
But what I am writing about today is the self-pity I felt during our exam week. I had recently spent two days working with another teacher (Ms. Gratz) in each of our freshmen World History classes on study skills and then saw evidence that no more than half of the students had studied. I worked in classes in which the teachers invited their students to create a cheat sheet for use during the exam... and then watched helplessly as freshman after freshman after freshman walked into the exam period without said cheat sheet. And the problems with test preparation weren't just for our underclassmen. It went all the way to the top where some hybrid form of senioritis and immaturity led our 12th graders to neglect their studies.
I am generalizing because I do not have data to back up these claims; simply my observations. But trust me, I don't lose sleep over hyperbole and hypotheses. I lose sleep when I see stressed out kids and stressed out teachers. I lose sleep when I know something's serioulsy wrong and that it's my job to do something about it. I lose sleep when I don't know what the heck to do.
I'm open to suggestion, but I think that one way to focus our energy (I have a theory that sleeplessness is caused by energy that simply needs to find a productive way to be expended, but more on that at a later time!), as a school, is by looking ahead to final exams. I don't think CAPT is a great opportunity for helping our kids to apply lessons learned from past mistakes, but final exams sure can be. And across the board, I've heard that the kids recognize the error of their apathetic ways. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea culpa! What we can do is try yet again to use direct instruction to improve their study skills. We can get parents involved by informing them that a cheat sheet will be allowed. We can arrange group "cheating sessions", after school. What else can we do? I don't really know. I am sleep-deprived, after all!
I'm hoping that you out there will have some ideas on how we can better prepare our students for the next go round. All input is welcomed.