Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Free Day!

Shhh....don't be too loud. I am giving a midterm right now. Here's a little secret: when professors give midterms, they have a "free period" in which they can do pretty much nothing. I always bring my laptop and a bunch of work to do. Today, since the whole day is full of midterms, I am savoring the morning by surfing the web, blogging, sipping my iced mocha. Have I mentioned that I heart midterm day?

The tension in the room on midterm day is palpable. Students are anxious and buzzing before the exam starts, and I always have to quiet them down to get started. By the end of the class period, those who are left are furiously writing, hoping their last few thoughts will get to paper. Oh I never liked that feeling. Ever. Test taking was so nerve wracking. And the last exam I took, the comprehensive PhD exam, probably took about 4 years off my life. I had to write three essays in 9 hours (over two days). I didn't know which prompt I would be writing on until I got there. I had no notes or books. My book list was about 90 books and articles. And on top of that I got to take an oral exam three weeks later which required me to clarify what I had written. And my memory of what I had written was pretty much a blur. I remember that I had spent so much time writing and reading before the exam (did I mention I was teaching a full load of classes at the same time?) that I had to wear readers, those farsighted glasses you can buy at the grocery store. I couldn't see up close and I couldn't see far away!

I used to think exams were exercises in power. A way for a professor to try to trip you up, make you fail, scare you into thinking you weren't smart enough to be in the class. Bad tests and bad professors probably do think of it this way. I always thought that it was unjust to have to endure such punishment for just wanting to learn. But I know a little bit more about teaching now. And I get why professors want you to be able to have a kind of recall of the concepts discussed in class. It means you've learned, you've cared, and you can say you know something about the subject when you leave the course. If you get an A in my class, you should be able to talk to people about some of what you've learned without needing notes. It means you've taken responsibility for your own education. The courses I teach are often thought of as fluff, and I'd hate for people to leave them thinking they know something about the theories and methods of popular culture or television because they could name an episode of The Simpsons.

That being said, the GRE is a load of malarkey. I refuse to believe that exam tests for anything other than whether or not you paid Kaplan the $1500 to learn how to take the test.

In other news, the last episode of True Blood was so moving. Alan Ball has a way with depicting grief and loss.

And if you watched The Big Bang Theory, how amazing was Sheldon's "fake smile"? I laughed out loud in my kitchen all alone (I had to watch it online since my DVR failed me on Monday night).

Also, I am getting tattoo fever again. So pretty. So expensive.

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