Test Anxiety. Big Time.


katBy Kat Kiefer-Newman

I hate tests. Maybe that’s an odd confession from an instructor, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter if it’s an academic test, either. I react poorly to having blood tests, having to take DMV tests, personality tests (although I am rather fond of the Meyers-Briggs Topology, but that’s another subject for another blog); I’ve even gotten uncomfortable at eye tests. And I can’t help but feel that when it’s my turn to be evaluated at one of the colleges where I teach, that I’m getting another test.

I have all the nervousness that I used to have in grade school: I sweat, my hands shake, I forget the answers. But that’s the normal stuff. I also find that I become clumsy, and strangely, bad things tend to happen to me.

The morning of my evaluation dawned with a beautiful blue sky, but I didn’t notice it. I was rushing around trying not to forget something (What was it?). I wanted to really impress my Department Chair, so I’d scheduled the observation day for a writing lesson I’m very proud of.

I got there early so I could put the lesson on the board. As I grabbed my bag I noticed I didn’t have any markers. How could I not have markers? Time ticked away as I crawled around under my car seats hoping one had rolled out. Nothing.  I made the mistake of rubbing my eye then and out popped a contact lens. I was now looking at the prospect of reading my notes with one eye. 

I ran off to the Adjunct Office hoping to find a marker. Luck came back and there was a blue pen. I tossed it into my bag and promptly tripped over something, probably my own feet. I hit the ground and split the knee of my pants.

The morning was just getting better and better.

I rushed into the classroom. There, I found one student asleep on his desk, snoring, another eating breakfast, and a third was applying make-up. Somehow, no one seemed to have the textbook.

I began to write the lesson on the board, first squinting, then standing back to see the letters, then pushing my face close and using the other eye. It was awful, but I didn’t have much choice. I found out later I’d smudged a big blue streak across my nose, but everyone kindly ignored that. The rest of the students came lumbering in scratching, stretching, yawning, and grousing about the lesson. They thought my scrawled notes were hilarious, and were loud about it. That was when I saw a tiny brown head bobbing up and down outside my door window. I recognized the English department chair and rushed outside to invite her in.  On my way out I poked the sleeping student on the top of his head, startling him awake. 

My Chair came in and sat smack in the middle of the room, right where I had to make eye contact throughout my lecture. I slapped on my professional smile and began. There were some late-comers (it’s an 8 a.m. class), but within 10 minutes everyone was eventually seated.

A cell phone went off once, but the student quickly silenced it. My students, aware that I was being evaluated, teased me a little, asking if I was ever going to use any of the textbooks. They were joking, of course, and my Chair seemed to realize that. Everyone asked questions and answered questions and the lesson ended up really being fun for me and the students, despite my sweating palms, blue nose, missing contact lens, torn pants leg.

The marker, as if possessed by the devil, ran out of ink halfway through the morning.

Despite it all, my Chair told me later that she was going to use one of my activities in her rhetoric class. I was thrilled.

As for my missing contact lens, in case you’re wondering I found it a short time later—stuck to my cell phone. 

About the Juggler: Kat Kiefer-Newman currently teaches as an adjunct instructor at two colleges in two different departments. In addition to her busy working (and driving) schedule she attends conferences presenting her research, is in the last stages of finishing her Ph.D., takes care of her elderly father, has recently packed up and sent off to college her second daughter, chats in status updates with her students on Facebook, does not hand out her cell phone number to said students despite their pleadings, and in her spare time she plays in her organic veggie garden. (And though she will never admit it, she also enjoys reading trashy vampire novels.)

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