You know you’re old when you start a story with “Well, I remember when…”
Okay, yeah, I’m old. At least I’m not denying it. Hi, my name is Emily…and I’m 31. I’m sure you are all responding in typical AA fashion with “Hi, Emily.” At least this realization hasn’t sent me into a quarter-life crisis (or maybe it has and that is why I’m contributing to this blog).
With this admission of age, I now begin my story with…
Well, I remember when I was sitting in my sophomore English class and our teacher, who seemed in my young naive mind to be an old, debilitated, frail man (who was in all actuality probably 31), wanted to go over the answers to our recent unit test over Lord of the Flies.
He returned our scantrons (okay, maybe I’m not that old since scantrons were around when I was in high school) and, much to my dismay, I had not received the “A+” I had assumed I scored when I confidently handed in my green and blue scantron sheet with my name written in pink ink with a cute, curly “y” the week before.
Instead, I received a mere “A” because I incorrectly answered a few multiple choice questions. Specifically, there was one question about Simon and whether or not he dreamed seeing the pig’s head on the stake. When reviewing the red dash to the side of the question I was positive Mr. “Smells Like He Is Dying” had made a mistake. My answer wasn’t wrong. There must be a mistake on his answer key. I was positive I had answered correctly.
Nope. According to the teacher I was wrong and a wrinkle (that would curse me the rest of my life) began to form on my forehead. We argued for the remainder of the class period: me innocently thinking I could convince him of his error; him asserting his authority over some green teenager who thought she knew the novel better than he. At the end of the argument it boiled down to an unclear question that, in my mind, was worded to trick and confuse students, not accurately test their knowledge. Thus grew my hate of the multiple choice question.
As a student, I hated that multiple choice quizzes tested my memorization. As a student, I hated how I wasn’t able to demonstrate what I knew about a text because I was limited to bubbling in an option. As a student, I hated that I could study each option so thoroughly that I could rationalize each as being correct.
But, as a teacher, I like the accountability of a quiz. As a teacher, I like seeing what the students know. As a teacher, I like that a quiz can serve as a jumping off point for greater depth. But I have learned that reading quizzes are an art, not a science and that a multiple choice quiz isn’t the only way to gauge their reading. Perfecting the reading quiz is like finding the fountain of youth that will erase my wrinkles; however, there are a lot of ways to hold students accountable, test their knowledge, and create a jumping off point for discussion that tests what they know, not their ability to take a test. Therefore, this week we are going to explore three new ways to construct reading quizzes.
And, for the record, I’m considering sending my Sophomore English teacher my first Botox bill.