Today I got up early to get myself out to school by 7:30 so I could take the Praxis II test. Ohio requires its new teachers (teachers before the new system are grandfathered) to pass tests in their content area. Mine is English, of course, and was 120 questions to answer in 120 minutes.
Everyone complains about how difficult the tests are and how difficult it is to finish all the questions given that there's a minute per question (actually less if you consider the time it takes to read passages to which some questions refer). I surprised myself by finishing all the questions in just an hour. I'd marked in my booklet questions I wanted to review, and I spent the next hour doing so and changing some of my answers, but still I didn't feel pressed for time. Some other people I talked to afterwards did though, not finishing the last questions until the very end.
I think I did okay but won't get my score for at least four weeks. I'd gotten a copy of a study guide from the English department here at school, but I really didn't study all that much other than looking at literary terms (although I missed "picaresque" and "synesthesia," which were on the test). Many of the reading passages on the test I had seen already in my classes, which I guess is a good testament for the quality of Wright State's English department. Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," which I read a couple years ago in ENG250, Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," which I read last year in Brit lit, and Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV, which I read just this quarter, all were on the test. I even recognized that the character of Esperanza was from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, thanks to my adolescent lit class this quarter.
This isn't the end of Praxis tests though. After grad school I'll have to take the Praxis test on pedagogy, or the art of teaching. Ironically the professors at Wright State who've taught me anything about teaching have all said that standardized testing is bad, and yet Ohio requires teachers to take standardized tests. Several professors have also said that Educational Testing Service (ETS), the organization that creates and administers Praxis tests (as well as the SAT, the GRE and many other tests), is evil. For a nonprofit organization ETS spends a lot of money on advertising and lobbying to promote its products.
|Today I started my Phase I Practicum, which is part of the process of becoming a teacher. In Phase I pre-service teachers (the term for students studying to become teachers) observe real classrooms. We're not there to student teach (that happens in Phases II and III), but we interact with students and sometimes, depending on the cooperating teacher (the term for the teacher whose classroom is being observed), even teach a lesson.
Spring quarter at Wright State doesn't start until March 29th, but because spring break in local school districts doesn't coincide with Wright State's, we have to start our observations during our spring break to be sure to get enough hours.
I've been assigned to Stivers School for the Arts, on Fifth Street in Dayton, which is convenient because it's walking distance from where I live in the Oregon District. Stivers is a magnet school, and students must audition to attend. My cooperating teacher is Joe Shindell, and he runs a proficiency intervention lab for 7th-12th graders who have failed sections of the Ohio Proficiency Tests or who have low scores on the Terra Nova achievement tests. The students spend half their time on computers doing drills and practice test in their target subject areas. They spend the rest of their time reading self-selected books and writing about their books.
I was only there for a few hours today getting acquainted. It's definitely going to be a different experience.
As you can see from the picture to the left (taken from the COM TA office on the fourth floor of Millett), it snowed a bunch today. Aren't the trees pretty?
I know that many of you had to work despite the snow today so you won't feel much sympathy for me when I complain that today should have been a snow day. All the local school districts were closed; even Wright-Patt was closed except for essential personnel. Wright State has done a little better at actually having snow days in the last year or so, but I think that only destruction of the campus itself would cause cancellation of classes during a finals week, which this week is. Never mind that there were cars on the side of the road on I-675 this morning, never mind that there were two cars stopped after an accident in the center lane just before the Fairfield Road exit, this is finals week and we're not canceling classes!
Actually, I'm kind of glad they did not cancel classes since canceling classes today would have meant they'd schedule makeup finals on Saturday.
Yes, the picture's blurry (I guess the bright light of the TV above the bar flummoxed the autofocus of my camera), but it's the only record of the last COM101 TA dinner I'll ever attend. At the end of every quarter, Dr. Pruett takes his COM101 TAs to dinner at his country club, Sycamore Creek. Filet mignon and a couple of seven and sevens aren't a bad reward for a quarter of hard work, especially considering that we're only paid $300 per section (you can do the math if you want -- class time alone for one section is two hours a week for ten weeks, and that doesn't count preparation, grading or proctoring quizzes and finals).
Still it's not for the money that one really decides to be a TA but rather for the experience. I'm still amazed that undergrads who have no training in teaching and no training in communications beyond having taken COM101 are the ones who listen to and grade all the speeches in COM101. I think I'm a much better instructor now, having taught eight quarters of COM101, than I was when I started in Fall 2001. Part of that improvement comes from having learned some pedagogy in my other classes, but most of it comes from the actual experience of seeing what doesn't work well and what does.
This was my last quarter as a COM101 TA because next quarter I'm doing my Phase I practicum (doing observations in the field at a high school) and I won't have time to do both. A perk that I will miss is having an office in Millett to work in and to store things in. I'll also miss all the free printing (no one said I could print only COM101-related things so just about everything I've printed for all my classes at Wright State has been courtesy of the Communication department!). A plus, however, is that I'll never again have to listen to lame speeches on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, on parking, on donating blood or on a host of other stupid topics.