Monday’s Meditation: On How To Ace Any Test
Remember pop quizzes and multiple choice tests and essay exams?
And remember how, after the teacher had distributed the stapled papers, and everyone had concluded conducting their preliminary flip-through, the classroom would become intensely quiet; the sounds of 20-odd students reading the same instructions and questions silently, in different ways, the scritch-scratching of so many pencils, the rubbing and brushing of an errant eraser, the creaking of a old radiator, and the teacher blowing his nose?
Remember how the tests cut through the sense of social connectedness and group reliance, and made you feel exposed and singular, like suddenly a microscope had been pointed at your brain, and there was no hiding behind the raised hand belonging to the kid in front of you?
Remember how intensely you focused, how you became so absorbed in recalling dates and producing formulas and crafting essays that you almost forgot there was anything or anyone around you?
And remember the rush you felt to spill out all the information you had managed to retain before it leaked out of your brain?
Remember when it started to feel like you had been working on that test forever?
Remember when the first student finished her test, stood up and walked over to the teacher’s desk, and the test-time-bubble was instantly broken? Remember how the air in the classroom changed after that?
And remember forgetting the page in front of you for a moment while you indulged in an envious glance at the students getting up around you, at the increasing stack of completed tests on your teacher’s desk?
Remember how antsy you got then, how you tried your best to refocus, but how desperately you, too, wanted to be done?
Remember the struggle to stay focused while other students luxuriated in being free to occupy themselves? And how the former silence had been replaced with a busy, buzzing quiet that was almost unbearably distracting?
And remember how many moments you wasted looking up from your page to gauge the status of your classmates around you or stare off into space?
Remember when it was all over, and you finally made your way to your teacher’s desk, tepidly placing your test on the top of the pile, feeling a mix of misery and relief?
Remember when the grades came back, and you asked around, and you realized that speed had nothing to do with it? That the second student done confessed to you he’d had no clue, and just wanted the thing to be over with?
And remember last week and last month, when you lifted your head from the test that is your life a little too long? How you’d looked around at all the exams and assignments already turned in by your friends, your acquaintances, your role models?
Remember the feeling of regret at having done so, since the comparison only made you feel more nervous, more unsure about your own answers?
But remember how you aren’t that kid in school anymore, obedient to your teacher and expected to learn or create according to their prearranged lesson plan, stuck in a room of smelly kids until the clock released you, your sense of self determined by where and how you measured up to your classmates?
And remember how far you’ve come from your grade school self? How you understand now that you are, in fact, deeply connected to everyone you know or don’t, united in some invisible, vast classroom, that you share inherent commonalities with them, but how you now see that not a single one of you is working on the same material? How your test, since you made and are making it up, since it is the only one of its kind, since you will be the sole one to grade it, is unfailable?
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