1.12.2014

Conversations in my head

I've not had any free time today, and much of my time was occupied having conversations inside my head (multitasking as I see it).  Now, normally I don't like to write about work- especially when it's not a particularly eventful day.  Today, I don't know.  Something about today compels me to type. 

It was not a typical day at work today.  Today was the day that my final exam was given.  Twenty professors invigilated my exam for 10 classes. A lot of time and effort went into putting together all 10 packets, the final exam (A and B version) and instructions, etc.  It's almost like a punishment being a course coordinator because on this glorious day, I do not invigilate any of these exams.  No.  My duty is to have my phone handy and for 2 hours answer calls from various invigilators  to go inside the classrooms and answer questions from students.  This seems innocent enough, doesn't it?  It doesn't seem like I should be sniveling in this moment, does it? One student asks a question, and the rest stop what they're doing and listen.  It's like a domino effect.

My phone did not stop ringing.  I mean, there is no perfect test. No matter how many times you go over it, or have your colleagues review it, there is no perfect test.  It doesn't even matter that for every question, you put an example to minimize confusion and questions.  I've certainly learned from my mistakes this semester, and with every quiz/exam I learn something new, and revise the exam for next time around. Every time I entered a classroom, I had loads of students raising their hands.  It follows like this: Student raises hand.  I go over to said student.  Student looks at me, and looks at their exam and points to a question.  I ask, "So, what is your question?" Said student again looks at me, and says, "I don't understand the question."  Fair enough.  I try to explain the question again (re-read the question) and focus their attention on the example right above the exam question in question.  Said student says, "Okay."  Then as I'm about to leave, student says, "Here, this one.  Is it like this?" They are pointing to their answer and indicating that they want to know if they have the correct answer or not... Arghhh. It went on like this for the remainder of the testing.

Fast forward to this evening after grading all 4 sections that I teach of the class.  I'm feeling pretty accomplished because I finished grading all the exams.  Of course, I still need to compute final exam grade, as well as final grade, etc. 

I'm feeling like a big spiritual dump has just occurred.  I gave so much to this semester and my duties as a course coordinator for this class.  It's like severing ties I guess.  I can finally relax in knowing that in 2 days, all my grades will be turned in, as well as all requirements of me completed.  I feel like I've had so much hanging over my head for so many weeks, and now it is about to all be lifted.  I'm really too much of a stress-ball to tackle all this responsibility with grace.  I guess I really am this "type-A monster" of ill-reputed fame... I'm definitely a person who prefers organization and time lines and accomplishing things accordingly.

How did I become this person?  I mean, I've lived in a tree house? I'm a hippy-chick at heart. How did this transformation take place?  When did this transformation take place?  Was there a transformation?  Perhaps I've always been this way. Could it be? I mean, to be successful (I think) as an archaeologist, one needs all these qualities.  I must have had them then.  I know I had them.  Perhaps it is that it didn't really matter then.  I don't know.  Educators seem to be nearly as zany as archaeologists... well kinda... They are certainly as hard-working and poor. 

This got me to thinking that I deal with a lot of (self-inflicted) stress that I put on myself. Why?  I don't know.  Do any of you know?  At the end of the day, it was just a day.  I reflect and just take it in stride. But there were some moments of near hair-pulling.  Three students come into my office this morning (none of them have ever came to my office before today).  I immediately cut to the chase and said, "I'm not answering any questions about the exam today" (they had not yet taken it).  They recoiled a bit, but then I eased up.  They sensed it and went ahead with, "Holly how do you tell the difference between primary and secondary stress in a word?"  I just about lost it (inside my head of course without alerting them to my despair).  I collected myself and calmly said, "This is not the time to be asking me this question, two hours before your final exam."  I made a brief explanation and referred them to Moodle (which worked intermittently all semester), and my posted notes where they could find the information they were seeking.  They perked up, smiled and triumphantly left my office! After they left, I took a moment and just smiled.  Just in the nick of time too as I was about to freak out that this question was raised on the day of the exam. 

I forget how stressed out the students are as well.  Perhaps I just can't remember back to my education in America.  Perhaps there just wasn't the emphasis on tests and grades that there is here.  Whatever the differences though, a student is a student and a student during final exams is stressed out.  I tried to remember this every time I was asked a question by students during the exam today.  I remember my last post on Moodle for all the sections was something to the effect of how to take an exam.  I mentioned that they should relax, especially when they don't know something.  Mark it, and move on and come back to it later after you've 'gotten out of your head' as I told them. I think these strategies are some of the most important things to know when taking an exam. 

It's funny but many students have came up to me throughout the semester to thank me for these test-taking hints.  They go on to explain that everything is about the grade.  I find this odd, but I also try to sympathize. I didn't have this experience at university- that I can remember anyway.  Perhaps I've conveniently forgotten about this obsession.

Okay, this is enough of this post.  I'm not particularly crazy about this one so I'll just stop here.  I'll just end by saying that it was an intense 10 hour day at work, but it's over.  I'm still here, safe and sound.  As I was driving home this evening, I focused on the scenery.  It was dark and everything was illuminated on the highway.  I could see the natural gas fires burning in the desert of the Southern Governate.  The highway was lit with white and red lights along with Bahraini flags (also white and red) throughout.  I drove past the A`ali Royal Burial Mounds that line the highway. As I exited at the A`ali off-ramp (or 'slip road' as my GPS likes to call them), I thought about how my 2 kitty kats will be so excited to see me and to get fed. Then, traffic stopped.  What was going on up ahead?  Blue lights ahead. Cars driving erratically as traffic was halting, and finally halted.  An accident?  Nope.  Another random road block.  Police vehicles blocked one lande and cars were only getting through in the remaining lane.  Each car was stopped and asked questions.  They looked at me, said something in Arabic and then just waved me on.  I don't know what that was about, but there are helicopters flying around the hood now.  No matter. I'm on the couch with 2 kitty kats and am about ready to get into another "Downtown Abbey" episode.  All is well in my little host island nation. It was a grand day!