Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Midterm madness

Midterms happen next week at all three of my schools and a wave of fatigued hysteria has washed over the students. As we approach the mid-point of week 7, the grind of the new semester’s set in and the students seem to get more and more tired every day. They seem to run on sporadic naps, for they drag their feet on the way to school and can hardly hold their heads up for more than 10 minutes at a time. Whether or not they do get any rest is hardly the point—they do need it, but the bigger point is the frenzy they’ve whipped up about these tests. It’s true that the tests mean plenty, but it’s also true that most all of the test material comes straight from the textbooks, so anyone who has paid attention should do fine.

And then there’s the other thing: After three semesters, material from my classes is on the exams. Getting my questions on the exams means the students have more an extrinsic incentive to do well in my classes beyond “This is interesting and I should pay attention” or “Conversation can improve my English abilities.” Often times, exam questions are the only way EPIK teachers can hold any sort of sway over students’ grades. Plenty of us have implemented points or rewards systems, but they have no official weight on a students’ report card, so they’re only useful to a point. Exam grades, on the other hand, mean everything here.

Taken together with the midterm madness, my students are now dreading the exam because they think I’ve a vendetta against them. Students in every class ask, “Is it difficult?” They say “Oh no!” and assume worried looks. I’ve assured that all the questions are from material discussed in class and that there are no surprises. The kids should do well. I’d like to think so, anyway. I’m not out to get them.

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