Today was the first day of speaking test #2 at the all boys high school where I teach. It went pretty much as I expected though there have been a couple last second curve balls thrown at me . . .
I’m still working on a massive blog post about designing, planning, and giving speaking tests in Korean public schools. I just haven’t had the time and energy, or the motivation, to finish it up. I hope to get it done sometime soon but it may have to wait till the final exam testing period when I have no tests and just come in to school to warm my desk.
Anyways, on Mondays I only have 3 classes which is nice cause it gives me two spares first thing in the morning with which I can do prep. I photocopied my test rubrics sheets, and printed out the group A and B test groups to post on the door of my classroom in case the guys forget their order of testing while walking from their homerooms to my classroom (and being high school boys this is highly probable–err, likely), and then had to pick up garbage left by a Korean teacher’s Saturday morning class when they used my classroom . . . argh, not impressed.
I then taught my first grade class, and it went fairly well considering it was hot and the guys were all zombies because it was Monday morning.
In the next period the speaking tests began . . . well, actually, not right away because my co-teacher failed to be in the homeroom before the class time started so he could organize the first five guys and send them to be ready to go right when the class time started . . . whatever. Apparently, if I don’t explicitly tell my co-teacher what he should do, and what he needs to remember, it won’t get done in spite of the frequent reassurances “Don’t worry about that” . . . yeah.
For the first speaking test I tried setting up meetings with my two co-teachers and ran into so many problems and resistance to having meetings, especially on the part of the oldest male co-teacher, that this time for test 2 I didn’t waste a single molecule of oxygen asking to set up any meetings, and neither co-teacher asked about them too.
Actually, I decided that I wasn’t going to approach them at all about the second speaking tests to see if they would ask questions and take some responsibility for the tests–and I got nothing. No questions, no requests for meetings to go over the testing rubric, test questions, and to review the test procedure–nothing.
They didn’t even ask to see a copy of the test . . . I give up. Seriously.
In fact, this morning, the first day of the tests, the oldest male co-teacher comes into my classroom while I’m cleaning and organizing the classroom, and setting everything up for my lessons and tests . . . and he says to me, “Jason, are we having the speaking tests this week?” I look at him with what I’m sure must be “ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?” stamped all over my face . . . unable to hide the incredulity at his display of ignorance. We had just finished doing an ENTIRE WEEK of speaking test preparation and review last week, and in every single review class I told the students that next week Group A will begin testing . . . and yet my co-teacher is asking me whether or not we’ll be starting the tests today?
Unbelievable . . .
Two minutes after the class time starts my first group of guys finally arrive. I begin testing . . .
The first four questions of my test are ‘warm-up’ questions that allow a student to calm down a bit, raise their confidence level, and get the momentum going. One of these questions is,
Jason: How are you today?
And my favorite answer of the 15 tests I gave this morning was,
Student: I’m supreme.
LOL! I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off, and both of us enjoyed the moment thoroughly.
Another student, when I asked how he was, replied “I’m VERY ANGRY.”
I blink, and ask him why. He explains that nobody told him the speaking tests were today. I look at him, and fight to hide my surprise, and say, “But last week we did speaking test preparation class. I’m sorry, but I think YOU forgot.”
At this point the student kind of took on a look like Dory . . .
Note to whoever replaces me: Don’t forget that Korean students pretty much have as good a memory as Dory does in the movie–which is to say don’t expect them to remember anything about testing dates and times. I already knew about this, but had forgotten.
The rest of the tests went by fairly quickly, and then it was time for lunch.
While sitting with a couple of other co-teachers one of them reminded me that there were two days next week where there would be no classes, a Wednesday and a Friday. While making my first speaking test I’d made a semester calendar in order to map out when my lessons were, and when the two speaking tests would take place . . . the bugger is I must have been possessed by a bit of Dory-esque memory loss cause I’d forgotten to check the dates I’d marked off where they’d be no classes during the two week testing period for test 2 . . . argh.
It would have been nice if one of my co-teachers that I teach the classes with had helped me out with preparing and organizing test 2, but as usual it was pretty much all on me to not miss anything in the preparation of the tests . . . and this time I had missed something.
Luckily, after finishing my lunch and then looking at my class schedule and a calendar, I saw that I’d be able to bump the two testing days to the week just before final exams. Initially, my co-teachers had asked me to assume the week before finals would be textbook review classes where I wouldn’t be needed; this meant that I scheduled my two weeks of speaking tests just before review week, and that the makeup speaking test days would have to take place during the final exam review days . . .
Frankly, the school really needs to embrace the fact that if they want the native teacher to give speaking tests they should integrate my testing into the mid-term and final exam official testing days . . . but something I realized today was that I’m not really doing ‘speaking tests’ in the minds of the school administration and my co-teachers–rather, I’m doing ‘proficiency tests.’
“Proficiency tests” are given BEFORE the mid-terms and final exams, and the testing scores have to be submitted before the official mid-term and final exam days begin. It’s nice that I’ve been given testing points for my classes, but I still wish that I wasn’t losing FOUR WEEKS of class time in order to test all the students (more on that later when I publish my post about designing and planning speaking tests in public schools).
Another thought occurred to me, after thinking about how my speaking tests are really ‘proficiency tests,’ and it kind of irks me a bit. Giving me the ‘proficiency tests’ may have had nothing at all to do with helping me to give the native English teacher’s conversation/speaking classes more legitimacy, and may have had more to do with GIVING AWAY all the duties and tasks that the Korean English teachers had had to do when THEY were the ones giving the proficiency tests . . .
I just asked my co-teacher about how ‘proficiency tests’ are usually done by Korean English teachers. She told me that they’re typically listening tests, and that the testing materials come from the education office. One of the reasons, probably the biggest reason, that speaking proficiency tests are not given by Korean English teachers is, and this comes from a Korean English teacher and NOT ME, the students don’t trust the Korean English teachers to evaluate them fairly and accurately–wow.
I told my co-teacher that I was surprised that the students, and parents, hadn’t complained that having speaking tests instead of listening tests is ‘not fair’ somehow because I imagine that some students and parents might think they have a better chance of getting a higher test score on a multiple-guess, errr, multiple-choice listening test . . . but I only had one student complain about his test score on the first speaking test I gave, and after offering to replay his speaking test recording and to go over the notes I’d written on his score card he declined and accepted his score.
Another thing, though, to add to why students and parents might not like having speaking tests instead of listening tests for the English proficiency test is that in general speaking isn’t tested, especially on Seunung (the Korean university entrance exam), and that that might somehow also be detrimental to scoring higher, etc . . . but come to think of it, a speaking test is not only a test of speaking skills but ALSO a test of listening skills . . . so in some respects the speaking tests are perhaps more beneficial because they necessitate a more active listening skills performance than is typically required. Hmmm . . .
Anyways, I’ve written pretty much everything I can think of . . .
Time to go get ready for the last class of the day.