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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

 
Testing, Testing
Yesterday, I was at work for 13 hours. This is because part of the fun of being a grad student in a field oriented toward teaching is that you get conned into teaching for free. This is also known as "practicum." Yesterday was the beginning of the end of what little free time I had managed to scrape up for myself this semester.

We have been having our practicum class all semester, but we don't start teaching until after spring break. The way the practicum is set up is that before spring break, we share teaching ideas, and after spring break we begin teaching a community ESL conversation class. There are 6 levels, and to place them into levels, we have to give them a placement exam. This is a process that is destined to never go smoothly, no matter how many times MSU has the practicum.

Apparently, there are a lot of people in East Lansing who really want to take an ESL conversation class. We got over there at 5:30 to set up the registration table, and there were already about 50 people there. We only had 150 receipts and information packets, and it said on the advertising signs that we would only take 150 people, but somehow, we ended up with about 170. Heidi and I were in charge of the registration table. Each person had to pay $10, (the total course fee,) we made out a receipt, and then gave them their information packet to take into the testing room. A simple process, no? But somehow the lines got screwed up, and some people who had been waiting since before 5:30 for registration to start at 6:00 got bumped to the back of the "line" and didn't get in until nearly 7. We ran out of receipt books and packets, so we had to just tear off bits of paper for improvised receipts, and put together packets from extra info sheets on the fly. We finally got all of them into the testing room, and then they ran out of test question booklets. Of course, the reading part of the test was the first section, and it isn't as important for placement (which is why it's first, to account for latecomers), but we still had about 20 extra people who were mad that they didn't have tests. The professor and one of the other TESOL students ran back to the office to make more copies, but that still took a while. For the listening part, apparently either the recording or the tape player was distorted, so it was hard to hear.

I wasn't in the room to hear that in person, though, as I was still sitting at the desk to answer questions from family members wanting to know when the test would be over. I also ended up helping to babysit a 1-year-old child whose mother was taking the exam and didn't have a babysitter. There were 3 other small children waiting out in the hall, too, but they had their fathers looking after them. Apparently, TESOL grad students are better babysitters than dads, as "our" little boy was quite happy, and the other three were screaming and crying for their mothers, 2 of them pretty much constantly, one only intermittently. When our baby got bored taking crayons out of the box and putting them back in, one of the other TESOL students gave him a little rice cracker. He didn't seem to like it too much, but he liked taking them out of the bag. When it became obvious he wasn't going to eat the one he had taken out, I held out my hand and he gave it to me, so I ate it and said, "Mmmmm." He then decided that I seemed to like them, so he pulled out another one and put it, not in my hand, but in my mouth. Good thing I liked them. He thought it was so much fun, he fed me all the ones that were left in the bag.

Somehow, we managed to get through 3 hours out there in the hall, doing nothing productive besides entertaining babies. At 9:15, the test ended, we cleaned up, and Heidi and I cleverly offered to take the folding chairs back to the professor's office, so we escaped earlier than everyone else. I was very glad to go home, after 13 hours straight on campus. Should you ever take a large-scale placement test, please feel some pity for the people administrating it, as well as for yourself.

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