The quickening silence, the unforgiving hard chair, the persistent perspiration, the uneasy feeling of not knowing what’s coming, and the cheat sheet in your cubby hole. The teacher is passing out the test. One of many we will have to take throughout our life time to show how well we can recycle antiquated theory from a series of text books. These “evaluations” bring about anxiety where the hands start sweating, the knees begin to shake, our vision may blur, our pencil is no longer steady, and our minds blank. All this is natural for students present day, but why? One word…FEAR.
If we don’t get a good grade in the lower levels of education, we have to deal with the wrath of Mom and Dad. Who the f*ck wants to hear that racket? I know they mean well, but they are “agents of the system” (look in the right hand navigation on this page to find out more on AOTS). Parents are one of the detrimental links in the chain of the system who blindly feed us information that will, ultimately, turn us into indentured servants. In the upper levels of education, the system takes over saying we’ll be failures, be scorned by society, and live destitute and hungry on the streets. It’s all built in to accommodate…class, one more time…FEAR.
I Took The Leash Off My Classroom, “A’s” On The House
In an attempt to stem the metastasis of diminished thinking, I’ve taken a step in my personal life to help. My class is one that ranges from 15 to about 30 students per sequence. The students who come into my medical college classroom often have limited “soft skills”, little knowledge about anything outside of their own lives (regardless of age), seem to be self-centered (bad in the medical field), and the only skill some are proficient in is having kids. Yup, I said it!
This is not an ideal skill set for a person entering the medical field, yet we receive them every 6 weeks like clock work. I’ll never be the one to tell a student they should not do something they absolutely want to do. Then I have to ask myself, do they really want to be here? The reply is “no”. Half my students are forced to come to school, are trying it out to see if “it works”, or they get free money from the military to go to school. Hardly reasons to take up a medical background.
My way of trying to release the bureaucratic hold on my students is to give them open-book, open-note tests all the time. (Thank you, Seth Godin) There is no reason to have students memorizing tedious information in hopes they will have to give the answer to one question five years later. It’s simply not viable anymore.
Well, what happened? Grades shot up and so did their confidence. They don’t stress about tests anymore, but even better then that, the students started to listen and participate more in the class rather than asking, “What’s going to be on the test?” or “How many questions will be on the test?” Now, they don’t care because they’ll have all the answers at their disposal. Class went from a pleasure to a joy for me. Some might ask, “How will they remember all the material they need once they get out into the field?” They won’t! No one does. I had to remind myself what it was like in college to be sitting in their chairs. I didn’t remember sh*t I’d learned from an exam I took the week before. Why would I expect them to be different?
It’s amazing how attitudes have changed and how grades have improved. It seems counter intuitive but the students hold on to more information when they are not cramming for a test. Now the tests are just something to get a good grades on while they learn the real hard skills they need to become an effective medical professional. I didn’t ask permission to do this in my class, I just did it. Like I keep reiterating in this blog of mine, I’m not a robot. I won’t take orders like one.
Imagine if your teacher gave out free “A’s”!