If you ask any teacher why they became a teacher, chances are really good that they'll say something like: "I love kids," "I love science/math/writing," "I love having summers off." And you may even get, "On the first day of kindergarten, I just knew I'd grow up to become a teacher."
What they will not say is, "My passion is preparing children to take standardized tests. I want to pass on to future generations my love of those little bubbles!" Ah, no.
Me. I went into teaching to empower kids for life. I wanted to instill in them a love of learning, a connection to each other and to the earth, and the ability to think critically and creatively. And I think I actually managed to sneak a little of that in between the state mandate of preparing them for the tests in April. It's a big part of why I left teaching. No more bubbles for me!
Welcome to higher education, the land of the BIG bubble test. In the nursing world it's called the NCLEX. It's our licensing exam, the tollbooth between nursing school and being a nurse. And, upon entry into nursing school, the student in white scrubs spends most of their time preparing for this test. In our program, which is accelerated, we have a major exam every week. Fifty questions that are designed to both test your knowledge of the content and prepare you for the NCLEX. Preparing the nursing student for the NCLEX means learning how to "think like a nurse." Or at least a nurse taking a test.
And it's not just nurses who get to bask in the joy of the bubble. Every profession has either a licensing exam or an exit exam or something else that requires a #2 pencil for success. You know what I'm talking about. What bubbles did you sweat over?
So now I'm wondering if I should go and speak to graduating classes at teacher colleges and tell them to accept the reality of their charter as a teacher: to prepare kids to take tests. Sure, art and music are fun and work the "other" side of the brain, but if you really want your students to be able to get into college, to have choices in life, to pass the SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, licensing exam and every other Scantron sheet that comes their way, hear my words,
"Embrace the bubble!"
I didn't do it as a teacher, but I'm doing it now. Sure, I'd love to be spending all of my time in nursing school learning how to be the best nurse I can be, connected with amazing mentors who share their experience and wisdom with me. I'd love to be learning, and proving my learning, in a way that works best for me. Unfortunately for me, that isn't filling in the bubbles. After two exams, my GPA is 10 points below the class average. I think too much during tests, look at too big of a picture, get to creative with my answers. I know what I need to do to succeed in nursing school. I need to become a great test taker.
And as Chevy Chase said in Caddyshack, I need to "be the bubble."
Suggestions and accolades are welcome.
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