Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Test-Taker: Why 3 Hours of Studying Won't Stick More Than a Handful of Concepts Into My Head

Even as I write this, I am plagued with a feeling of guilt. This feeling seems to grow more and more apparent to me as the years roll on and I am thankful that in May of 2010, I won't have this feeling ever again.
It's called studying.
Perhaps it's my major. As a Communication Arts with an emphasis in Journalism, I get to do what I excel at; writing reports, making presentations, and taking some concise but not always legible notes.
Meanwhile, I am surrounded by people constantly cramming and note carding their facts into the gray matter. They are exhausted by the boatload of information but still do great on their exams.
My study habits have more or less deteriorated over the years. I despise tests, even the Scantron ones where they throw these suckers at you:
D) A and B
E) B and C
F) None of the above
Oh sweet Jesus, you have got to be shitting me.
My brain has developed a handy little trick over the years where I study for a couple of hours, sleep on it, and reread it the next morning so it sticks. Then I take the test and what happens? All of the everything I just memorized falls out of my head and is replaced with dialogue from a Disney movie (most commonly Aladdin).
I am frantic and nervous and scrambling for answers, hoping that at least ONE of the 15 words I'm writing in a one-sentence short answer is a key concept. Terror begins to rise in my stomach and I know that once the test is over, I'll be running for the bathroom.
I'm not sure when my study habits began to crumble. I don't even know if they were really all there to begin with. I was never really able to be like everyone else in the sense that they could pick up the book and like a sponge absorb it all, even the mindless dribble in most of the science textbooks that had to do with cell reproduction.
If I didn't like what I was reading, I either skimmed it briefly or did not read it. I saw (and still don't) no reason to place such horribly dull objects into my head and kick out the creative ones instead. Why? To ace a test? To become a number in the ranking?
Was it even for me at all?
No. It wasn't. It was for everyone but myself. Pleasing a teacher, my parents, neighbors, even strangers with an Honor Student bumper sticker.
I didn't like it and I still refuse to cooperate with this method today. This works better for writing because if I didn't like the topic, I would talk with the teacher until we tweaked it in my favor (something I started doing in grade school).
Doesn't work too well for other tests though. You get what you get unless you push for a convincing argument to raise the grade in your favor. This requires some extremely persuasive arguments and the occasional girly giggle and friendly touch of the arm.
We've talked in my Communication Theories class (my very favorite with my ah-mazing teacher Don) about how schools can drain the creativity out of you simply by the bell ringing to interrupt the flow and get you to go start something else.
Let me tell you something, dear reader...
Every now and then, I have a fantasy of being a teacher in my head.
Remember, that is every now and then. Not a profession I want to fully pursue for myself.
As a teacher, one of the English professor variety, I would:
1) Have class outside on nice days.
I don't like being quarantined in a classroom with only one door and on the most awful of occasions, no windows. Blinds and curtains suck and an open window can only breathe in so much air. I am all for sitting outside in the shade of a tree and having everyone in a circle, relaxed and open.
2) You can bring a pillow and a blanket to snuggle.
It's not fair that I get a comfortable chair and you don't.
3) Field Trips
I think that seeing the world beyond the classroom is very important.
4) Movies
Because every class ever invented should come with at least 5 requisite blow off days in which you just watch a movie and talk about it afterwards.
5) If You Write It, You Better Fucking Feel It
Believe me, I could get off into a huge tangent about writing styles. Part of me would love to assist at the school writing center but I couldn't do it. Not because I don't want to help. I would love to help assist others in how to get started, form a thesis, do the works cited page, etc. It would be creative pieces like this that would blow me to pieces:
An Example:
I touched her face with my trembling hand. In my dreams, this face was of silk and crimson, burning beneath my fingertips like a searing stone dripped with lava. Her face was of marble and it reminded me of childhood and how all that was sacred was not at all.
My age was only a restriction of time and numerals and never of myself.
She licked her honey coated lips and said, "Hello."
Oh sweet Jesus, how I hate the pretentious writer. Kiddies, here's a tip. Take off the ironic black framed glasses, hang up your scarves, and stop writing sentences that sound like Coldplay song lyrics. If I have to hear the stars are yellow one more time...grr.
Keep it real my friends. Keep the feelings true and without oodles of adjectives and strategically placed sentences attempting to cover the true meaning.
Love to you all,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an outstanding post. I definitely hate those kinds of questions on Scantron tests. And you make an excellent point about writing what you feel. Sometimes I think that people are trying to show off more than they are trying to express themselves.