Sunday, January 30, 2011
Coming Full Circle
I can add cutting bagels to my skills, right next to writing test questions, making algorithms, revising syllabus sections, and proctoring exams. Being a life cycle intern has some interesting responsibilities.
During the second year's first midterm last week, the most important job for the teaching interns was simple- cut the bagels before the students assemble in the front. We started at 8 AM. There were 11 dozen bagels piled in paper bags awaiting our arrival. On the grand piano that sits in the front of the lecture hall, we threw a table cloth and began slicing the circular balls of bread on a square wooden cutting board. One by one- we made our way through the whole wheat, raisin, sesame seed, onion, poppy seed, plain, and everything else bagel. As students assembled in the lecture hall to take their exam, we stood in the front facing our cutting board, carving away, slicing the bagels as even as we could.
As I cut, I realized how nice it was not to be sitting down to take a test.
After the bagels were cut, I sat in the front and helped proctor the exam.
Proctoring an exam is an entirely different experience. It's unusual. You sit in the front of the room and do one thing- watch the test takers. During tests, people do all sorts of things. Some stare at the ceiling (or at you). Others blankly stare at the scantron or test. Others just scribble all over the test. And some come up to ask questions about the questions.
Answering these sorts of questions is an art--one I have yet to master. As you are asked a question, an information exchange tug of war develops since you now know the answer. In the process, you come to see that some tests questions are hard to understand for a myriad of reasons--some are poorly written, vague, wordy, or just unclear. Having taken the same test a year back, you are also amazed at the level of detail you once remembered. And now on the other side, you have to find a way to answer those same questions you had when you took the test.
You have come full circle.