March 30, 2011

white out warzone...

Today was test day at my new school, and it wasn't pretty. The lazy day joys that once consumed test day have instead been replaced with a migraine, and shell shock. My current school employs the use of scantron sheets, or OMR cards as they call them. Normally these sheets don't create pain in the brain, but they are different from the scantrons I've used before.

First, the top of the sheet must be entirely filled out in pencil (unlike the name field I only filled out in High School). These sheets are customized, and have several fields that the kids can screw up, such as Korean name (they have to write in Korean) and class name (not the classroom they are in, the actual class name). I realize that it is not rocket science, but I'm giving these sheets to 6 and 7 year olds. I love them, but it doesn't take much to confuse them.

I originally scoffed when I was allotted 20 minutes to explain the cards to my students. It was brutal, horrible, and painstaking, nothing seemed to sink in. I can't blame these children, this was their first big test at the school, and their little hearts are usually stressed to the max anyways.I found myself explaining the top row for the first 20 minutes, the time flew as the kids asked question after question. At that point I wanted to rip my hair out, and I had yet to explain how to fill in the bubbles. The sad thing was that I walked into class knowing that would actually be the tough part, I thought the kids would understand how to write their names.

OMR cards differ greatly from scantrons when it comes to filling in the bubbles. Instead of the trusty No2 pencil I used as a child, this school employs the use of a specialized computah (computer in konglish) pen, and these pens are the devil. They have a very high smudge level, if such a level exists. To make matters worse, these OMR cards are sensitive to smudges, and detect the slightest hint of errant ink. Couple this with the fact that I'm dealing with humans, and like all people, children are susceptible to making mistakes; Wrong bubbles are accidentally filled in. With the use of these pens, the easy method of erasing and redoing (as with pencils), is replaced with students asking for me to white out the wrong answer EVERYTIME they mess up. I should also insert here that I'm horrible at using whiteout pens.

Out of the 65 OMR cards I've had turned in today fewer than a third are handed in clean (free from errors). The next third arrive at my desk with authentic battle damage, and randomly applied whiteout. The rest arrive almost unrecognizable. There is whiteout applied all over, and smudges smearing the pages like blood from a wound. Some even cards slip into the pile so damaged that I have no choice but to redo them during my next class, where I will have to deal with new questions, and new cries for whiteout.

I realize that the use of the OMR cards save me from having to mark 80 or so multiple choice tests, and I appreciate that. But I entered a warzone today armed with little, and not expecting the bloodbath that ensued. If I'm sure of anything I'm sure that I've added a few new grey hairs.

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