The new semester begins and you decide you are going to keep up this time. No getting behind in grading, all lessons will be planned on Friday afternoon, every standard covered creatively: a tight semester, designed for the utmost in fun learning efficiency. The first week is great. You devise a really effective filing system for returned work, a fresh new seating arrangement, which although risky, looks and feels so good you are willing to try it. The second week you’re still on top of everything. The third week, you spend a day or so teaching the seventh graders about complete subjects and predicates. They totally seem to get it and stay really engaged. Things are clicking along really well and privately you pat yourself on the back. You finally have them figured out, you are again the teacher you always thought you were. Savvy, in control, smart.
At the end of that third week, you decide to give a short little quiz on the subject and predicate lesson. The first two questions are definitions, and you include an answer bank below. Two of the answers are silly, (“A complete subject is a new dance step,” like that) just space fillers and the other two are the definitions of complete subjects and predicates. Below that are four sentences, in which the students are to circle one or the other. It is all very transparent, nothing new. It won’t take long to do, and you are sure the students will all ace it. And some of them do. But some of them remain clueless. Either they have confused the two, or they have filled in the definition spaces with the fillers, rather than the real definitions. This is disappointing, but you decide if you let them take the quiz again they will surely get it this time. You don’t reteach it, you just explain it by pointing out that two of the filler answers are jokes and two are the real thing, and they just have to choose the proper definition. A couple of kids decide to retake it.
For the remainder of the period, everyone is redoing something, hoping to improve their scores. At the end of the day your grading basket is almost as full of redos as it was before you graded anything. You decide you’ll grade and post them, to keep yourself up to date. The first thing you pick up to grade is a complete subject and predicate quiz. You look at the first definition, and this is what you read:
“A complete subject is: Did the pig poop on my clothes again?” In a moment of clarity you realize that perhaps you should have not only retaught the lesson, you should have put clearer instructions on the quiz. Except that you already spent nearly four hours teaching it the first time, and you have specifically told him how to do this question and he wouldn’t have read the instructions anyway. All that’s left is to laugh, albeit hysterically, and put it back in the grading basket. Maybe it’ll be different tomorrow. And maybe not.