For the past two days I’ve been busying myself administering Final Exams. To give you a small clue as to why I’ve been rapidly succumbing to baldness, here are two of my favorite questions concerning the final exam.
1. “What is going to be on this test?” – Apparently so foreign is the concept of a cumulative exam (despite having taken at least two of them every year for the last 5 years) my students sincerely have no idea what to expect. I know that it is totally naive of me to think that after almost two weeks of intense review and practice test questions for the students to have any inkling as to the kind of information they might be asked for on the exam, but I just can’t seem to help myself.
2. “Will I be able to re-take this test if I fail it?” – This is a basic failure of every English teacher that this student has ever had in class, met on the street, or really even passed in the supermarket. How difficult is it to grasp the concept of a FINAL exam? There are three general definitions for the word “final” – pertaining or coming to the end, ultimate, and conclusive or decisive. Interestingly, none of these definitions seem to suggest that there is anything that comes after the final. I could find no special meaning or caveat that would indicate that the word “exam” modifies the meaning of “final” and so I can only conclude that these students have never before encountered the concept or word “final.”
Given the above questions, perhaps it goes without saying that practically none of my students did well on their final exam. They were almost universally shocked to discover that the questions on the test were nearly identical to previous test and review questions (they were convinced that they had never seen this information before). They were also greatly amused by my inquiry into how many hours they spent studying for the exam outside of school; any period of time longer than 15 minutes is simply incomprehensible to them.
In the end, I did what every highly qualified teacher in this great state does when faced with a situation like this: I curved the scores. If I hadn’t it is pretty much assured that fully half of my students would be forced to repeat the course and that most of them would be back to stare blankly at me while breathing through their mouths next year.
I can feel your judging eyes boring through the internet even as you read this. You are all kinds of superior because you know that your professional ethics would demand that you fail 50% of your students for failing to perform well on the final exam if that’s what they deserved. After all, we all know that how you do on final exams really indicates your worth as a person and your level of content mastery and perspicacity.
In any event, the for the next several days I’ll be hiding in my classroom pretending to be hard at work so that no one bothers me while I wait for other teachers to finish their exams. It’s sure to be a grueling experience, but I’ve stocked up on games to play on my phone and animal crackers, so I think that I’ve a fairly good chance of making it through. Wish me luck!