Twenty Talks to Teachers

by Thomas E. Sanders

Chapter 4: Passing the Examination

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1908
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Sanders, T. E. (1908). Twenty Talks to Teachers. The Teachers Co–Operative Company.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 10.4
  • Word Count: 1,459
  • Genre: Informational
  • Keywords: education, educational, learning, teaching
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The formal examination of teachers is a necessary evil. It is one of the ways of eliminating the incompetent. Examinations are necessary. On the other hand, they sometimes license those who are utterly incompetent and cut out those who would teach good schools. Taking the examination, all in all, it is helpful. By eliminating the bad features and encouraging the good they may be made better still.

Passing the examination is an ordeal that confronts most young teachers and often older ones. We all feel better after it is over. Many of our leaders in education, university professors, normal school teachers, specialists and heads of departments along with many superintendents would hesitate to stake their reputation as a teacher or educator upon the answers to ten questions from each of ten subjects, these subjects to be prepared and the answers graded by "the other fellow." Yet this is the ordeal to be passed by most young teachers. Is it any wonder they dread it ?

Every thinking man will concede that the usual examination does not test the applicant's ability to teach. The answers to a series of questions will not do this thoroughly. A better and more sensible test would be to have the applicant prepare a list of questions to test a class that has just completed a given division of a subject. If the teaching ability of some superintendents and examining boards were to be tested by the lists of questions sometimes asked of teachers they would be refused a third–grade license. The lists show quite evidently that they were hurriedly made with little thought of testing the applicant's teaching ability. It is also true that the examination is not even a good test of the applicant's knowledge of the subject. The real intelligence shown in the answers, the arrangement and scholarship and neatness and accuracy are the essential things. Nothing can be more ridiculous than a little two–by–four examiner or superintendent making a list of questions, many of them narrow and indefinite, and then that these same questions must be answered in certain specific words to make grades on them. One examiner recently asked : "What did Washington do before he crossed the Delaware ?" Well, he did many things. But if the applicant did not state that "he divided his army into three divisions, etc.," he missed the question intended by the examiner, and lost ten per cent on that question. Examinations based upon such questions are as much a farce as the method of holding a two weeks' institute and follow it by an examination based upon the subjects discussed during the time. The whole time and energy of the teachers is spent in cramming for the examination.

If an examination is to be a fair and reasonable one, the best preparation for it is an intensive study of the subject upon which you are to be examined. Do not study the subject with the thought of examination upper most in your mind. Study it with a view to mastering and understanding it. Let the thought of what questions may be asked on examination go. If you master the subject, all legitimate questions asked on examination will be easily answered. The hard examination to you is an examination in which you do not know how to answer the questions. If you have mastered the subject you will very probably know the answers to most of the reasonable questions asked. Cramming for examination is usually time wasted. To study and cram on question books and old lists of examination questions is time thrown away. Get your text–book and try to master the principles and divisions of the subjects, and your time is well spent.

If possible, be in good physical condition on the day of examination. This counts for much. Some teachers overwork themselves preparing for examination. They become nervous and do not sleep well. This leaves them without reserve force and in poor physical condition when the time comes. Other teachers work late the night before examination and sleep little, often getting up early to study just before going to examination. I have seen them bring a book in one hand glancing at it to refresh their mind in the hall as they were passing to the examination room. This anxiety saps their nerve force and leaves them in no mental state for a strenuous day's work. If early in the examination they find some thing difficult to them they go to pieces and do not re cover during the day. Leave off both study and review. Do this for at least twenty–four hours before time for examination. Keep your mind from dwelling upon the examination. Take plenty of exercise and if you find time hanging heavy, read some good story. Retire at your usual time the night before examination and sleep your usual number of hours. Get to the place of examination in time to have a half hour or more to get familiar with the strange surroundings and to talk with teachers before the examination is called. Nothing relieves one's anxiety more. Practice writing a few minutes be fore the actual work begins. This makes your hand steady, and you are pleased with your first work. It always pays you to be on time or ahead of time on examination day.

Go to the examination room prepared for work. Have either a good fountain pen or a good easy pen holder with some extra pens and a bottle of ink. It may be your superintendent demands some special kind of paper or manuscript book. Get this before going to the examination unless the superintendent supplies them. Have also a blank book and pencil and a sharp knife or a pencil sharpener. In other words, go to the examination prepared for work just as you would expect your pupils to come to school on examination day.

Work carefully and persistently, and as rapidly as possible. Nothing is more detrimental to good work than to feel that you are behind with your subject. Do not rush, but try to complete each subject in time to review your paper before time is called. Neatness, accurate spelling, and careful, systematic arrangement of your work will make a good impression always, and get the good will of the examiner. Slovenness and careless arrangement will unconsciously prejudice the examiner against you. Your thought and answers must be unusually strong if they overcome the prejudice unconsciously caused by poor writing or poor arrangement.

Let me emphasize again the importance of systematic arrangement of work. Poor penmanship, if it is uniform and legible, may be overlooked if the work is properly arranged. Paragraphing, punctuation and general arrangement count more than all else in making a neat manuscript. I used to read the manuscript of an author frequently. His writing, considered by itself, was poor—extremely poor. It required practice to learn to read it, but it was uniform. It all looked alike. His punctuation and paragraphing was almost perfect. The general impression was good, and when you once mastered his particular letter formation and learned to distinguish his a's, his o's and a few others, his manuscript was easily read. The mechanical side of your examination manuscript, will, if properly cared for, balance many little flaws in the answers themselves.

Read the questions carefully. Hasty reading of questions will account for many mistakes. After having read the question take time to think the answer. Then con dense the answer as much as possible, and have it complete and clear. Number your answers to correspond with the questions, leaving one or two lines blank between the answers. If you have doubts about the meaning of a question, express it in writing, and answer it according to the interpretation you think most plausible. Do not be long–winded or wordy in your answers. Be brief, be accurate, be neat.

Try to complete each subject in time to go over it carefully. Correct any mistakes you may find before handing in your paper. It will be time well spent. Many little mistakes, simply little slips of the hand, will occur when your mind is centered upon the thought to be ex pressed. If any work or calculations are transferred from your scratch book to your manuscript be sure it is copied correctly. Frequently mistakes are made in copying, but the examiner cannot know this, and must grade you in what you place on your manuscript. He grades upon the accuracy of the work as he finds it.

Approached properly, the examination should lose many of its terrors for young teachers.