There are Usually No Stupid Questions

Every now and then, during exams, students ask questions that are so stupid it’s all I can do to keep from laughing in their faces. I have, however, on occasion, openly expressed my disgust and contempt.

What usually happens during exams is the first 10 minutes or so of the 50 minute period are taken up by the listening portion. Lately this has me worried as a result of an incident that wasn’t even my fault. (Today, to make matters worse, the sound technician kept playing with buttons as if there was something wrong with the CD, and that had me stressing out.)

After the listening, those of us teaching that grade assemble in the teachers’ room to await questions and as a rapid reactionary force if an actual mistake is discovered.(Which happens every now and then.)

Usually the junior high first years (7th graders) have the most questions: do we have to print or should we use cursive?; can we use numbers or do we have to spell them? These are understandable as, for most of them, this may be their first exam in English.

However, my favorite questions have all come from high school students. Two happened today. First, my student wanted me to spell a word for him. I told him I could neither confirm nor deny the spelling. He went huh? Later, in the same class, a student asked a question that amounted to “Is it necessary for me to follow the instructions on the long writing?” I said “of course.”

At that moment, my student took a second shot at getting me to spell a word. I just smiled and left.

Last year a student pointed to an entire section of the exam and said “I don’t understand.” My reaction was “That is why you fail.

The best, though, was a high school second year student (11th grade). That term was speech contest term which meant every 11th grader had written and memorized a speech appealing to some authority figure to change something in the school or in the world. Because that took up a large portion of the term there wasn’t a lot of material for the exam. The long writing, therefore, involved person A appealing to person B to change something. (I don’t remember if it was a dialogue or an essay.)

Thirty minutes into the exam time I was called upstairs to answer a question. One of my worst students pointed to the long writing and said “What is ‘appeal’?”

Given how I felt, my look must have been something between “Is this a joke?” and “You are a moron”. I told him I couldn’t tell him but told him it was just like his speech contest speech and left him to his own devices.

He ended up not writing very much. (Which actually makes my life a bit easier.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *