Day 87: The Man and the Emergency Test System; ‘Test’

Not a Test BW.jpg

When did tests lose their power?

It’s not a matter of irony I don’t think, but it is interesting to note how we grow up fearing and dreading tests. Tests were the only things that mattered. It was the end all be all ultimate measure of our knowledge and worth. It’s why we stayed up all night and slept with textbooks under our pillows. But now we throw out ‘this is only a test’ and suddenly whatever we are working on doesn’t matter. It’s our best excuse to preclude judgement or criticism. ‘Tests’ now have absolutely no bearing on the real world.

As a child my parents had me write down my test schedule on our family calendar. Displayed on the refrigerator for all to see, along with family and friends’ birthdays and Ear Flick.JPGanniversaries, was every math, spelling, history, science, and reading test I had coming up. Tests were a big deal in my family. I was rewarded for good performance and heavily punished for poor. I remember reviewing for spelling tests, my mother would sit across from me and start drilling the words. If I got the word wrong, she would flick or twist my ear. ‘Thermometer’ and ‘temperature’ were so difficult for me that when I was finally able to recite it correctly multiple times in a row without fail, my ear was so red and swollen that I could barely hear out of the left side of my head. My father was the math wiz in the family so he would take on the responsibility of drilling me before math tests. He would create hundreds of problems and have me do them all. God help you if you got any wrong because my father certainly wasn’t going to. He’d look over the list and if any were wrong he wouldn’t point out which, he’d just tell me to go over all of it again.

I really have nothing bad to say about how my parents handled my schooling. Honestly I might not have achieved as much as I did in school if they weren’t so literally and figuratively hands on. And as I said they were as serious about rewarding me as they were about punishing me. When I would come back home with 100s on my test or with my straight A report cards I’d receive the fruits of my labors. Extended curfews. Cash. Toys. Ultimately, the message was clear. Tests mattered. They measured something. Maybe not our worth, maybe not our talent, but definitely our preparation. And in a world where tests mattered, results mattered. Poor results needed to be met with remedy and reprimand. Successful results deserved award and merit. And this understanding held water all throughout my schooling. Each test did matter. They made up the percentage of my grades, helped me get into a magnet high school, got me into the college of my choice, assured me a full ride scholarship, and distinguished me when I started applying for teaching positions.

But then I left the academic world. And suddenly I saw how the rest of the world viewed tests. They are ubiquitous in our daily lives but we are so saturated with the term that we barely even notice it. Do you remember starting your WordPress account? Do you Magic Bullet.gifremember ‘testing’ out various themes and investigating pages? You would load up a theme, browse the different pages, maybe visit the ‘About’ page. ‘This is a sample of an ‘About’ page,’ it’d say non-committedly. ‘This is a test.’ ‘Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.’ Nonsensical words that are so prevalent in online text that you imagine if you say it enough times in the dark in front of your bathroom mirror the ghost of Al Gore would appear on the other side. I’d be watching my favorite late-night infomercials like Magic Bullet or Nu-Wave Oven and before falling asleep to the sound of ‘one, two, three seconds and you have perfectly chopped chicken for your quesadilla’ I’d be jarred awake by the *eeenh eeeenh eeenh THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM*. You’ve probably heard this so many times that the moment it comes on you just turn off your TV or switch to something else.

But what about the test results?! Did you like the page layout and design? Did you check to see if, in a real emergency situation, you’d be able to hear the information immediately following the beeps? When did tests lose their power and prowess? It seems in the real world tests have come to signal the coming of something of little consequence. Something not to be considered or regarded. Oh it’s just a test. Pay it no mind. It doesn’t matter. There’s a huge pushback against tests and testing now. We grow up thinking that tests are the ways in which we could prove ourselves. Some of us even have to take tests just to get potential jobs. But when it comes to the actual work and the way in which we interact with others, when was the last time you ever took a test? And I don’t mean ‘which dog suits your personality best’ either.

I feel that part of the reason why we avoid tests in life and have begun to reject testing is Radcliffe Test.gifthat tests naturally come with the potential for ‘failure’. No one wants to be labeled a failure and in our culture of participation trophies we seem more and more averse to the possibility of failing. But we need failure. We need to know that there isn’t always a safety net below our feet. Failure is a great motivator to get you on your feet and moving because you know the only other alternative is to feel the walls start to close in on you. If we desire and crave success we can only ever achieve it if we acknowledge that the alternative exists as well. Failure tests us. It is how we find out if we actually have the resolve to continue on. How many things have you failed, never to try again, and how many things have you failed that only motivated you to try even harder the next time. I’d rather listen to the stories and lessons of failure than the boring repetition of lackluster success.

I understand also the viewpoint that tests aren’t the end all be all most efficient or even effective way of measuring the whole of a person. And this I think is not the fault of the tests themselves, but of our own definition of them. It isn’t the test’s fault that we are so bad at interpreting their results. There are certain things tests will never be able to measure. But they are damn good at measuring the things they were meant for. Like preparation, for example. Focus. Attention. I would certainly never place the entire weight of my self-perception on how I do on tests. Two students who receive exemplary results on a test but approach it from very different methods should be viewed differently as well. Perhaps a test that is aced with little to no prep is a measure of someone’s talent or inherent ability. Compared to a student who receives a similar grade but with much more preparation, we would classify the latter as an example of their focus and determination.

Even as adults we still need tests. We should constantly be testing ourselves each day because there are so many things that are important to us that are worth measuring and succeeding in. We should test our abilities in occupations that challenge our minds and bodies. We might not like to think of our relationships as ‘tests’ but there certainly moments that test us. Our faithfulness. Our commitment. Our concern and consideration. Maybe we if viewed these as tests where the possibility of ‘failing’ them meant losing those we care about, we’d put more pressure on ourselves to be better for them.

Day 87

Man: 68 Loneliness: 19

19 thoughts on “Day 87: The Man and the Emergency Test System; ‘Test’

  1. Same with my parents; I was even scared to take my assignment to them. Failure wasn’t an option; and it still isn’t. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t learn anything; but the look on their face whenever I passed, and the reward made my efforts worth it. Your post is amazing and I can totally relate. I also think test is important; and should be taken seriously as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great words to live by. I know what failing feels like, you don’t want to know how many times I’ve failed my Praxis exam. It’s frustrating, but I’m not going to be giving up because that’s just not an option. You are right. Stories of failure are much more appealing than stories of success. And like you said, tests don’t measure everything in a person, which is why it took me a while to remember that although I have failed this test, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Failure is a necessary experience for a good teacher. It helps you remember your students. And it tests your resolve. When I was in college a number of my colleagues failed their PRAXIS the first time and simply gave up. They became whatever English majors could become when they don’t become teachers. Maybe for better or for worse, but I’m glad you have the resolve to continue.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I took it when it was the PPST, it was really easy, but of course I only passed one of the three sections. I needed to pass at least two of the following sections, I was one point shy of passing the second. I had to take it again and that was the year they changed it to the Praxis Core. I went into that test blind because I really didn’t know how new it would be. I failed them all to say the least. When people didn’t pass the much harder one, they switched to social work. It’s quite sad. Although, I am determined to pass. Social work is not an option.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh man so close! That’s a bummer. Hahah. Wait did you like, start this before I did? Are you older than me? What the heck is the PPST? I only know the PRAXIS. Unless the tests are different in different states. I really wouldn’t know. Much like you I really didn’t know what was going on. I registered three weeks before the test and paid a hefty late registration fine. Hahah.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I took it in 2013 when it was the Praxis PPST. It very easy: basic math, basic reading and writing. Now the test has been revamped to the Praxis Core because that is what the schools curriculum is, the Common Core. It’s quite a nuscience for incoming teachers because that was not the curriculum we were taugh in school. It’s still called the Praxis, just that is name of the test that potenial teachers have to take. They all shouldn’t be different in any other state. The one I took in Kansas will be the same in Nevada. They really don’t want people to pass. They just want our money. You don’t want to know how much I have had to shell out for that test.

            Liked by 2 people

              • Yeah it’s changed a lot. Some of it is crazy, but other parts of are okay. For example, I’m someone with a math disability and I like that the math allows you more than one way to do things. I need something like that because it’s harder for me. I just don’t think it’s fair to make incoming teachers take a test over something we weren’t taught.

                Liked by 2 people

                • Means more studying and paying for more classes and more books and then you pass and you bring it to a school with your application and they just go ‘uh, okay, whatever, but what’s your experience’ and then you say ‘I have none because I spent the past four years passing this test’. It takes an unnecessary lot to finally get a chance to do some good in the world.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • Which is why my resume is specifically education. If you can’t get it from school, you can get from the little jobs in the workforce. I have worked in a childcare, headstart, non profit orginizations for under privilidged youth, before and after school programs and as paraprofessional briefly. It sucks that schools don’t give you that experience which is why I brought it upon myself to find experience.

                    Liked by 2 people

  3. I once had an excellent manager, she would say Elaine have you tried your best? And I would answer honestly. I have never pressured my children to succeed, they put enough pressure on themselves, both now professional women. Good thought provoking post. .How old are you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations on your children’s success! I think motivation, whether internal or external, is necessary for success. And it is definitely the responsibility of parents, educators, and mentors to gauge what the student needs. I think my parents knew as a young child I would need external, immediate motivation. But as I grew and developed they knew they could step away and allow my own internal drive to push me forward. Oh I’m 26. Hahah.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. There might have been a time when this very topic would literally make me go raging on and on about how test results do not define who you are and the like, but now, I just think of them as numbers and that the real result is what you got out of the test, not how you prepared or did it. I agree though, with your last words, that we must put enough pressure on ourselves. I have always thought that learning starts with wonder and not with the pressure of getting a good end result. I liked this post, made me think. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s what I do! Hahah. Glad it spoke to you. There’s value to be had in tests if we take enough time to really analyze them and figure out what we want. Like you said. Maybe it’s to see how we prepare. Maybe it’s to measure natural ability. Maybe it’s in the test-taking itself or in the results. Like any tool, you need to know how to use it. If a hammer doesn’t turn a screw it’s not the hammer’s fault. We didn’t use it properly.

      Liked by 1 person

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