Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How to Have Fun As a Teacher (and Really Mess With Your Kids' Heads)

I've talked previously about some of my less than usual experiences as a teacher here and here and here. Here's another one.

I remember very distinctly being a senior in high school while taking an English test and thinking, "If I ever thought about becoming a teacher, I would make a true-false test where all the answers but one was true. Or a multiple choice test where all the answers are C." I had no idea at that point that I would actually teach for six years but there you go. Never actually did that, but what I did was a bit craftier.

One of my policies in my Honors Senior English class was that there was one outside book read every six weeks period. I can't remember all of them now, and I was pretty naive when it came to being a teacher, but fairly early, I realized that the last six weeks of the school year was going to be pretty hard to get things done. Seniors still had to pass me to graduate, but their motivation was a bit harder to bring to the surface.

When the book was due, I gave the kids a multiple choice/true-false objective test about facts in the book, what happened in the story, who characters were, that kind of stuff. Then we'd talk about the book in class for a couple of days and then they'd write a paper on a certain topic. Well, in the final six weeks, I chose George Eliot's Silas Marner, a fairly short book. However, after the first year, I realized most of the kids weren't reading it; they were reading the ever famous Cliff's Notes. Now, I didn't mind if they read those, but along with the book, so the next year, I devised a plan.

Throughout the test in the multiple choice questions, I sprinkled incorrect answers about a golden ring. I probably mentioned references to this ring in about four different places. A ring that never once appeared in the book. However, the students that hadn't actually read the book didn't know that. So, as I watched them take the test, I could see confused looks on kids' faces as they went back and forth on the different questions, noticing that the ring was mentioned a couple of times, and being pretty good test takers (it is indeed possible to pass a test without ever having cracked open the book), I knew I'd got them. I also hoped that the kids that actually read the book wouldn't get tripped up on it, and try to remember the ring.

Of course, once I graded the tests and handed them back, I told them what I had done and made it a cautionary tale about actually reading the assigned material, but we actually enjoyed a good laugh about it.

Sometimes I miss being able to mess with people with impunity, but I guess that's why God lets us have children.

Just kidding, future Kinsey and Connor. Any way that I mess you up is purely by accident... as far as you know. And really, it's not raining because you disappointed God and He's crying.


Justin said...

"I knew I'd got them"

Shouldn't that be "gotten" English prof? ;)

Malia said...

I'm so glad my teachers were never as "creative" as you.

Tony Arnold said...

I would have read the book, but being having low self-esteem, being a perfectionist, and having the tendency to put authority figures on pedastels, I would have be tripped up too.

And it would have been devastating too. I had to be perfect when I was in school.


Phil said...

Justin... It's a blog. The regular rules of grammer don't apply as much. And correctly, it would be "I had them."

Malia... It would have been fun. You would have actually learned instead of trying to get over and around the rules. ;-)

Tony... I considered that and trusted that the students who were perfectionists like that would have read the book and known that it wasn't in there.

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