A few weekends ago I took my Praxis I test in Mathematics (one of a few tests I have to take in my journey to become a teacher). I HATE and have always hated math(Until recently, more on that later). The experience alone was awful not to mention the content.
The test was at 7:30 am in Zanesville on a branch campus of Ohio University. Yes, I said 7:30 AM in Zanesville! So this meant getting up at 4:30 am, meeting the other two members of my group that also were taking the test, and driving aaaallll the way to Zanesville.
Nathan, Bobi, and I did get there in time and with a little (ha!) work found the right classroom (we actually think finding the room was part of the actual test in some way). We sat with our sharpened #2 pencils (not mechanical, as instructed online) calculators (again we THOUGHT this was instructed online) and waited for some of the others along with the test proctor to file into the classroom.
Without boring you with the rest of the long story, by the time we started the test it was an hour...yes...an HOUR later then when were supposed to start (yes, I was ANGRY) and it was declared just before taking the test that we could NOT use calculators. So, we had 60 minutes to answer 40 multiple choice math questions and wasted A LOT of time doing things like long dividing etc., were exhausted, hungry, and anxious. I was near hyperventilation by this point and all and all I still don't really know how I did on this test. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't have to pay $90.00 (yes...I said $90.00!!) to take it again.
This whole experience got me thinking about learning, school, and how we are taught to teach. What I kept thinking over and over as I was taking my test was "My ability to teach has been reduced to this?" (Perhaps I should have been thinking more about the volume of cylanders). I know testing has its place, but so much of my education on becoming an educator has been reduced to "Read this", "Take this test", "Say the right thing, at the right time....and you're in." I hate this. This isn't the kind of teacher I want to be, and I don't like that this is how we teach our teachers.
Remember earlier when I said that I HATE math? Now this is in part because I was the kid sitting my 7th grade pre-algebra class yelling "When are we ever going to use this!?" However, I don't know that my question was entirely unjustified. The responses I recieved were usually so that I could pass a test and get into a good college. Not a bad goal, but is this the only reason we learn? Is it the only reason we teach? (Yes, I'm on my soapbox now). To pass a test. That's it?
No one ever told me that math related to physics and the fabric of the universe, or that it could help me understanding chemistry and the miracle of the inner workings of plants and animals. Now I know, I know...will a 7th grader listen to this? Maybe...maybe! So why not try? Why not try to get the kid in the back of classroom wondering when this will be useful to see that it's interesting...even exciting and that everything they learn connects to the world around them.
I know this is all very idealistic and I don't feel like I've really expressed exactly what I'm thinking, maybe I was just mad over a math test. :) But, all this to say....teaching and learning...it's more then just about a test. I hope someday, I can teach that way.
"The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer”
--Alice Wellington Rollins
Image credit: sweetlovelife.com