A student knocked on my door during lunch today. He needed a paper to study for a test in another class. As he retrieved it from his desk, I remembered my seventh grade geography class.
Toward the end of the year, we sat in class taking notes once again in our spiral notebooks. Everything on the final test next week we could learn from the notes taken in class during the semester. I took careful notes; my notebook was full of page numbers, notes, maps, definitions — everything.
Near the end of the period, the teacher gave a quiz. I carefully put my spiral notebook on the shelf underneath the hard plastic seat on top of my other books. We didn’t have book bags then; we carried everything in front of us in our arms.
I turned in my quiz and waited for class to end. I was always nervous about tests and quizzes; I was always sure I’d fail, although I always earned As and Bs. The bell rang and I loaded up with all my books, chatting with friends and rushing to the next class.
It wasn’t until I after supper that I noticed. My geography notebook was gone. I looked every where — on the floor, by my coat, on the dining room table. Nothing. I ran back upstairs to the card table that was my desk. I opened my three-ring notebook to double check. No. It was gone. I was devastated. How would I remember all those facts? I took notes as we studied, but it felt wrong. I just kept replaying in my mind, “How did I lose it?”
I called Peggy. She said, “Don’t worry. We can study together.” And so on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday nights we studied at her house with other friends, quizzing each other from our notes — methodically going through each page.
I was still worried — I knew I’d want to cram a few hours on Monday night. I hated the feeling of failure.
Of course, then I didn’t know that cramming hindered learning. I didn’t know that asking those questions with my friends was a better study skill — asking questions and answering them aids retrieval. I didn’t know that the laughter we shared also enhanced learning. And I didn’t know how silly it was to have a course built on facts that today we can simply “google.”
On Monday in Geography Class, we reviewed. I knew most of the answers — thanks to those study questions and time with friends. At the end of class, I reached down to pull out my books, and on the top of the pile was my notebook. I looked around, but nobody said a word or even looked. I was relieved. I could study.
I never knew what had happened; I just figured someone had “borrowed” my notes for their own study, and thankfully, had returned it, just in time for the test.
All of this flashed through my mind as the student walked by, saying, “Thanks.”
I said, “If you want after you’ve studied, quiz me on those — I know I’ve forgotten.”
I thought perhaps a good question/answer session might help him tool
Testing has a whole new emotion and presence; it’s not a good thing to label kids and schools based on tests. I can’t imagine what it must feel like today — you can’t even study for them.
I hope things are changing; I hope education is moving towards deeper learning — asking good questions and knowing how to find the answers. I hope we’re allowing kids the dignity to show what they know through demonstration and portfolios rather than one test on one day. Does that really make more sense?
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