And so we've entered testing season and I'm getting nervous because I know my kids aren't ready yet. But I think I've got many of them believing in themselves and in me. Yesterday they took a practice ACT. Today I asked them to fill out a quick reflection on how it went.
I asked them to compare yesterday's practice with the previous one. I asked which strategies they tried, which ones worked. I asked what their personal plans would be in the coming weeks. And the two questions that I was really interested in:
- Which test section was easiest for you? A. English B. Math C. Reading D. Science
- Which section was most difficult? A. English B. Math C. Reading D. Science
I asked them to explain why they thought it was the easiest, and they wrote things like "Because we went over strategies & in my other classes we didn't" and "Due to all the practice we did in here" and "English is the only class I have that really did practice for the ACT" and "I actually learn something in English" and "Because you helped me with the strategies" and "English is awesome!!"
You're probably thinking they responded that way because I'm their English teacher, and they thought that's what I wanted to hear. But you have to believe me that my students are honest about this kind of thing. As evidence, I present the responses from this one smart boy I'll call Albert.
On the question asking to compare yesterday's practice test with the previous one, he circled C. About the same. His explanation: "All tests are equally mundane and irrelevent" (sic).
On the question asking which section was easiest, Albert didn't circle anything. His comment: "I don't pay attention to this type of thing."
My last question was: What thoughts, questions, concerns, or comments do you have about the ACT?
Other students wrote things like "It's going to be hard" and "It's pretty long" and "I am concerned that I will get nervous during the test and that I will forget everything" and "My concern is me being terrified because usually I freeze when I am."
What was Albert's final remark? "What does ACT stand for?"
And here's where a guy like Albert gets really annoying. I have ready responses to the other students' concerns and questions. And I know how to deal with nerves. But I just realized that I've been teaching to the test for eight years now, and I have no idea what ACT stands for.