The announcement came over the speaker, causing a collective sigh of relief. Students could now talk to each other, they could get stuff out of their backpacks, and most importantly to them, could have their phones back. Oh, the horror of students not having phones! (Cue your favorite “In My Day We Didn’t Have …” speech now.)
They huddled around the door, unsure what to do with hours worth of unused energy and fully realized boredom. All gloriously because testing was complete for the day.
I leaned against the desk, suddenly tired. One of the students must have noticed the change on my face. He asked me what it was like to watch them take tests.
“About as exciting as you’d think watching people take a test would be.”
He laughed, nodded, and offered me a fist bump before walking out of the room as the class clamored out the door to lunch. The room was quiet. I didn’t want quiet. I had just spent four hours in complete silence. I wanted noise. Not the runway of an international airport level of noise I’d find in the cafeteria. More like the moderate din of teachers in the break room.
I walked into a civilly heated debate about active monitoring. Specifically, how to pass the time when the clock doesn’t seem to move. A dozen teachers sat at our table. While each had different strategies, they fell into a few camps. Ask yourself what you would do if you had four hours of uninterrupted time, but weren’t really able to do anything with it.
Here are some of the funny, irreverent, exasperated ideas we came up with:
- Spend two hours planning the entire next grading period. Spend the next hour making a mental list of what you need. Forget all of it in the last hour when all you can think about is when your relief monitor will see the “Break Needed” sign you hung up 45 minutes earlier.
- Decide which animal should represent each day of the week, month, and year.
- See if you can remember which motivational poster is under what sheet of butcher paper.
- Count the number of laps you can walk around a predetermined path between desks. Spend each successive 30-minute block trying to beat your previous personal record.
- Try to guess which book on the half-circle table belongs to which student.
- Think about the thing you were thinking about. You know, the thing you reminded yourself not to forget about.
- Solve a complex mathematical problem involving how many times you can mentally write “Time remaining” on the board.
- Solve the same problem as in #7. This time, don’t forget to carry the one.
- Knit. Mentally knit. You’ll be great at it.
- Rank every “Hagar the Horrible” comic. Compare and contrast that list with the ranking of “Cathy” comic strips.
- Time how long it takes for the air conditioner to cycle on and off.
- Daydream about what it would be like to not watch other people take a test.
Then remember that, just like you told your students, it will be over before you know it.
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