Final exams start this week which means we’ve been recording and editing and psyching ourselves up for the slog. Part of what keeps us going is what one colleague calls “our time”.
Basically, three times each year. even in the junior high school, students have to take our classes seriously. The rest of the time, especially in lower level junior high classes, students will talk and cheat and “forget” their book and basically make a lot of noise.
In their defense, junior high students can’t fail except on paper, and are always promoted to the next grade. Only at the end of junior high, when they want to go to the high school, do their grades matter. Think about your worst behavior in junior high and the behavior of the worst person you knew in junior high and the worst grades you ever got and the most boring teacher and imagine how you would have behaved knowing you couldn’t fail and could always play sports.
However, often at the end of each term, some students begin to realize they need to study because a test is coming. At this point, we have certain amount of control over them and we confer about how difficult to make the test. This is our time. We also decide how much to help the students prepare.
For the most part we help the students out quite a bit. We give them a review day and in junior high we even tell them what the long writing question will be and give them the opportunity to practice. (Essentially that means we give them up to 25% of their possible points for free.)
However, the compulsion to make noise and ignore the teacher often overwhelms the students. I’ve been in the middle of writing test information on the board only to turn around and see students wrestling or doing homework from a different class. I’ve been explaining what to study and had every student in the class talking in Japanese. My response is usually to erase the test information and wish them good luck on the test.
I’ve done this in high school as well.
I also let them know I don’t care if they actually study or not as it’s not my test, it’s theirs. I almost never get angry during review time (unless students are fighting) and just let them waste their time.
As I tell them, if thy get a zero on the test, it makes the math easier for me.
Note: the lowest score ever actually was a zero by a student who didn’t even write his name on the test. My lowest high school score was eight.