In the meantime, I cleaned my desk, stole glances at the clock, and felt compelled to burst into one of the testing rooms to tear a test from someone’s hands to peek. This was mostly a selfish impulse. I wanted to make sure I had prepared them well. And it turns out I probably did. As they were streaming out, most were relieved. The multiple choice questions, which make up two thirds of the test, were easy, they said. The written section was trickier, and though they couldn’t offer details because of the sacred pledge they’d taken, they confirmed that I had not guessed correctly on the questions, though some of my guesses helped overall.
Of course, there was one term on the free response part that no one knew, not even we teachers, as we discovered once the questions became public later in the week. Every year this happens. My theory: the psych test is not as rigorous as chem or physics or any of the others, so to boost self-esteem (or test-esteem?), the committee throws in a term that will tighten the gut, like the bullied kid who rears up to throw in a little bullying of his own. On Friday, I attended a local psych conference for teachers, who echoed the same reactions about the ease of the first part and the challenge of the second—and none of them knew the rogue term either, which was prospective memory, by the way. Students around the country were collectively scratching their heads over that one.
On Tuesday, we didn’t collapse, we didn’t flee the school, we didn’t curse the AP gods—not too much at least. Most of them were a little tired. Of testing. Of psychology. Of me perhaps. We spent most of our time regrouping, finding our footing. Some of them couldn’t afford to relax too much because more AP tests were hurtling their way. Nine more days of testing still awaited them.
Here’s the big challenge now. How do I keep them engaged now that our goal is behind us? We have four weeks left before break!
For starters, we watched Ron Howard’s masterful movie, A Beautiful Mind, about John Nash’s descent into and recovery from schizophrenia. The movie takes several liberties but a literal depiction of his suffering, which included mainly auditory hallucinations, would have been tough to show. So the voices become imaginary characters instead. Next week I aim to have a day or two of high level discussion about the movie, and though they’re tired, I have great faith they will have something worthwhile to say. Otherwise, the clock will loom large.