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Watch Your Language Mr. Martin

Posted in Annecdotes, Standardized Testing, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Drumly

(Or Another Day That I Thought I Might Be Fired)

Is it possible that stories about days I thought I could be fired is a genre in of itself?

Sometimes laughter can break the stress of studying. Especially when the teacher puts his foot in his mouth! Photo by Bill Selak. CC Some Rights Researved

June, Teaching Year 14

Standardized Provincial Exams are a reality where I teach.  At the end of each grade six year, the students dutifully study their hearts out and do their best.  For me, I always want the students to show what they can do. If they get an answer wrong because I didn’t cover the idea, well, that makes me feel somewhat badly.

We were doing a new test in Social Studies for the brand new curriculum, and I had attended workshops and done the best that I could to help the students make sense of the new materials.  I had taken careful notes, particularly about the new vocabulary that the kids would need to understand . . . everything from Wampum Belts to Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s).  For some reason, perhaps fatigue during the workshop, I had finished my list of things that might be on the test by writing down just the acronyms.  Now, a week later, I was struggling a little. There were some that I knew easily, like MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) but some that I couldn’t find for anything.

The easiest thing to do in this circumstance is to make the students do the work. I gave out a list of terms and told them we were doing a scavenger hunt to find them in our books, in order to make sure that we had them all. Scavenger Hunts are often a noisy business, with people excitedly talking about what the words mean, but still trying to keep it a secret from the others.  I was helping a cohort of students, a group of four grade six girls, with their list of terms, and we were cross referencing them back to the textbook. I had found MNAA (Metis Nation of Alberta Association) and only had one more to find. Acronyms are a pain, because unlike words, you can’t always rely on an Internet search engine or a dictionary to find them. Thus, we had the textbook out, even though it isn’t our favorite way to learn things.

“I can’t find this last one, Mr. Martin,” one of the girls told me.

“I can’t find it either,” said I and I let out my trademark exasperated cry and put my head down on the desk.

Some more students came over and asked me what I was struggling with.  They are always so helpful when I am struggling to learn things.  So I told them, “The last acronym.  I’ve forgotten what it means and I can’t find it in the book.”

“What acronym?” one boy asked.

Pretending to be hysterical, I raised my hands in the air and shook my fists, “The FNA.  I can’t find the FNA!”

All noise in the classroom stopped. . .

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