Chuck Brooks: Feeling like a teacher again with ACT testing
It's 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. I am sitting in a classroom at Rosemount High School, proctoring the ACT test for 19 students, mostly juniors. I use this time to usually the write my next column. And this morning, I've been racking my mind to come up with an idea. Then it dawns on me. I've never shared with you my experience of doing this every three or four months. I think it's time.
The worst part of this gig is the alarm clock on a Saturday morning. Since being retired, I rarely have a need for that foul-mouth machine. However, I have had to use it from time to time. And these mornings when I proctor, it refreshes my memory as to its scream and its impact around 6 a.m. God, how I hate the sound of that thing! For years, I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. I'd get up, have my coffee while watching the morning news, eventually shower, have a little breakfast and be to school by 6:30 a.m. I do not miss that component of everyday life. However, when these proctoring days roll around, I wonder how the heck I ever did it all those years.
In any case, the alarm rings, I'm up and Willy's happy to be fed a little earlier than normal. I don't give myself much sitting around time as I need to be to school no later than 7:30 a.m. And I like to get there a little earlier. When I arrive, the walk down that main hall, passing by the "senior benches," brings back many memories. Looking at the various posters on the walls. The main display case at the T-intersection is filled with whatever topical subject is relevant at the time. I take a right and head straight to the counseling office. There I'm greeted by the counselor in charge of administering the ACT. He gives me my materials, greets me with any relevant information, and I'm off to my old stomping grounds on second floor.
It happens today I'm sitting in the room of the woman with whom I taught all 33 years of my career. And today is actually her birthday, so I sent her a picture of her desk and the window behind it, which was always a beautiful view of the woods and the pond. My room was directly
to the right of hers. Upon receiving the pic, she noticed the poster on the front of her desk was still in the same spot. I'm thinking the teacher who uses this room now isn't even aware it's there.
The kids begin filing into the room around 7:50 a.m. I check them off by looking at their ACT letter and a photo ID. I get the chance to banter with them as they stroll in. I miss that component of my daily life. This gives me a chance to reconnect with my favorite part of teaching. The kids.
By 8 a.m., if all are in, we begin. This year, my instructions went from hard copy to online, so I had to do a little learning prior to my arrival. It was really quite an easy transition, though. I must read everything verbatim from the ACT folks. I indicate to the students that ACT is serious about the testing environment. I show the kids my playful side before having to read the serious instructions. By 8:20 a.m., we're usually into the first of the five tests, the English test.
The English test takes 45 minutes. Next is math, a 60-minute test. Then a 15-minute break, and then they return to do a reading and science test, both 35 minutes, and finally a 20-minute general questions test, not considered into their scoring. As I handed everything out, I have to also pick everything up in a certain order, one at a time. When it's all said and done, it's usually nearing noon, and I tell them to vamoose. I thank them for being a cooperative group and to have a great weekend! I organize my materials, turn off the lights of the room, close the door and return to the counselor's area to drop everything off. By noon, I'm in my car and back to living the life of retirement!
Besides when they enter, my other favorite time of the test is when they return from break. I show them my more human side again, bantering with them a bit before digging in for the final 90 minutes. I've never had any issues doing this job. No cellphones vibrate. No problem with talking after each test is completed. It's a good gig. They leave happy to have it done, and I leave feeling a little like the teacher I was, while happy to be heading home with nothing to grade! And my alarm clock returns to a state of dormancy. Win-win all-around!
In the back of my mind this morning is a forecast that says 8-13 inches of snow Monday into Tuesday and another 4-7 inches Thursday into Friday. Enjoying winter? (evil laugh)