Sunday, January 19, 2014

On Teaching And Testing

Since flunking my CDL class the other day, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to blame everyone except myself, of course. I haven’t been that successful at it, especially since it was the air-brake section that I flunked. For my own safety, air brakes are something that I should know inside and out. It DID get me to thinking, though, about my beliefs concerning teaching and tests, in general.

To begin with, let me say that I don’t have much liking or respect for public school teachers as a group. In my past, I had two or three absolutely wonderful, motivational teachers. I also had two or three horrible, psychopathic teachers who belonged either in a mental institution, or behind bars. All the rest were various shades of depressingly mediocre.

College was a different story, but only because it was a private college, I believe. Those colleges that are considered as state colleges and universities seem to have about the same disgusting mix as secondary public schools from what I’ve heard. Let’s face it, some teachers could teach sex to fourteen-year-olds and make it boring.

My greatest personal beef with secondary school was with those who taught history. Every year, when I first got my textbook, I’d read it front to back, laughing at the propaganda the liberal writers inserted, but thoroughly enjoying all the rest. Then, I wouldn’t pick up the book for the rest of the year, making passable grades by simply paying attention in class. I’ve loved history since before I could read—always interested in the what’s, the why’s and the how’s of the old days. I was NOT that interested in the who’s or the when’s and, frankly, most of the time, those facts are NOT that important to understanding the onward march of time, though sometimes it’s important to know the ORDER of things.

Tests, of course, belabored the very things that mattered least in my opinion, both then and now. Dry, boring facts are the forte of dry, boring instructors, so such questions abound on most tests. Essay questions best prove whether a person understands a subject, but they require that the teacher be able to reason as well or better than the student. I suppose that explains the preponderance of “multiple guess” questions on modern tests; that and the machine-gun teaching methods of teachers who feel pushed for time, due to irrational demands by administrators and such.

The so-called “trick question” is perhaps the most disgusting thing on most tests. I believe that they are designed not to prove the understanding of those taking the test, but to feed the ego of those designing the test by making them feel more intelligent than their students. Such questions may test the reading ability of the person being tested, or their comprehension of the English language, but they do NOT test the student’s knowledge of the subject (unless that subject happens to BE English). More often, they simply test the trust the student has in the teacher to be concerned about truly teaching them the material and testing them fairly—a trust that is destroyed 99% of the time.

These things being said, I happen to like my current instructor. He really is trying his best to teach the subject to his students as simply as possible. Unfortunately, he doesn’t design the tests. But that’s okay, I’ll play their little games and still pass next time, I believe. Plus, for my sake and everyone else’s, I’ll master those air-brakes! © 2014


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I have had a wide variety of teachers over the years and I have to say that some of the best ones(out of public school) were the ones who had actually had jobs other than teaching positions. Someone who has had to work just seems to be able to relate the course material in a real world manner. They made up their own tests and they were designed to test necessary things that are needed on the job (um, like air brakes I guess,lol). Anyway good luck next week.

M. Silvius said...

Forget the test and all the other rigmarole. Learn the subject mater, I mean really understand it, which you mostly already do except for a few details you never faced before or got rusty on. Brush up on it. Once you know it they can't stump you and you will recognize the curve ball for what it is when they throw it at you. We are all prone to blaming other things and circumstances when things don't go our way. Best get over the emotion of it, get with the game and just forge ahead. It will be your own path. So what if you stumbled, you learned what not to do and that is more than others can say. Failure is an essential part of learning. We have all been conditioned by society and the bobble heads on TV to think it is all about winning every time, and it is not. Ask yourself, What will it take for you to get the CDL? And then just put one foot behind the other slow and steady and just do it. It's your path out of the lows you have hit recently. More than just the money its the psychological reward of real success you need most right now. I know it cause I have been there myself, an I have fallen hard more than a few times. I know you have it in you, you are smarter than most. Don't let the bastards get you down. Slow and steady wins the race.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'm sure you're right, SF; same with preachers, too, I believe.

Good straight-on advice, Michael, thanks.

buddeshepherd said...

Gorges, the CDL test is not designed to make sense. It is mostly about your knowledge of rules that don't always make sense. It is not uncommon to fail one or twice on those tests. I read the CDL manual from front to back and tried to memorize the book. In the end I passed because I was good at taking tests.
I would hate to do it again. The truck inspection and driving test would get me. I didn't have to do it when I took mine.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I am not a believer in standard tests. I could ace them in school because I could memorize at the drop of a hat. It doesn't mean I learned anything. The best teachers I had didn't give regular tests. In college (I minored in history, a subjected I hated in high school)my teacher gave us a choice. Standard test, essay or project. The projects really showed how well you understood anything. Mine was a short story/novella. Another thing they did was to bring in everything else that was happening at the same time: politics, religion, literature, etc. to show you the whole picture. It helped to explain WHY things progressed as they did.

Lady Locust said...

I have been in the school system for a number of years. I'm not sure about over there, but neputism runs strong over here. I have seen some of the best teachers I have ever met not 'get the job' due to a 22 year old with the right connections. They don't actually care about the education, just the politics - our tax $ at work. It really is sickening. More power to home-schooling & charter schools.

Gorges Smythe said...

I should have done this back when they changed the licenses, Budd, but I was working in the factory and planning to retire from there. I didn't know I'd ever try going back to driving truck again.

According to most teachers, Kathy, the Uncivil War was fought over state's rights and slavery. It WAS, but there was SO much more involved.

I agree, LL.

Warren said...

Good comments here, and Amen to Sunnybrook.

There is a saying that those that can do, do. Those who can't do, teach.

Gorges Smythe said...

All tooo often, that saying is proven true, Warren.