Intimate Exam

ƒinals, by ƒreg @ FlickrProctor: [prok-ter]
1. a person appointed to keep watch over students at examinations.

2. an official charged with various duties, esp. with the maintenance of good order.

–verb (used with object), verb (used without object)

3. to supervise or monitor.

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME; contracted var. of procurator]

End of Grade exams (EOGs) were this week at my son’s middle school. A few weeks ago I had volunteered to help relieve teachers for while so they could enjoy some punch and cookies and a massage during Teacher Appreciation Day. At the end of the day, I was asked if I would consider being a proctor for the EOGs, and gladly said I would.

I was a little mystified about the need for proctors at a middle school, but upon looking into the matter the fog cleared quickly. EOGs are state level assessments, similar to the annual fill-in-the-circle exams we took when I was in school. North Carolina takes the integrity of these exams to a whole new level, however. Teachers check out a tub full of exam booklets and answer forms each morning, are required to keep that tub with them at all times throughout the exam period, and check it back in at the end of the day’s testing.

Proctors are assigned to each classroom to watch teachers and students, ensure that there is no cheating, and verify that each student has a matching color-coded test book and answer sheet with their name pre-printed on it, among other things. Proctors are not permitted to touch the exams, the answer sheets, or even the students’ pencils or calculators at any time, even to assist in handing them out or taking them up. Each item is meticulously and methodically rationed out by the teacher, one student at a time. Not even a “take two pencils and pass the rest” approach is permitted. If the proctor spots what may be an issue with a student, the proctor takes the concern to the teacher rather than address the issue directly. Should a student require an emergency bathroom break, the proctor escorts the student to and from the toilet.

It’s all very easy and mundane, with only one real hurdle to overcome: proctors are not permitted to sit at any time. So for a little more than four hours each of the last three mornings, I have diligently paced between the desks of students while they furiously but silently filled in little circles on answer sheets (with only number 2 pencils, of course!). It was an interesting experience, being able to just watch the students while they mostly paid no attention to me. It seemed almost like a science experiment where the scientist watches the behavior of his laboratory mice from behind mirrored glass.

I’ve written a little about it below the fold.

On the first day, Tuesday, I wear my green suit with the soft heeled brown loafers Little John got me for my birthday, hoping they’ll be pretty comfortable. They are. I amuse myself while performing my proctoring duties by mentally noting the little quirks and mannerisms of each of the students. It’s reading comprehension day. She absently bites her pencil while thinking. He taps his expensive sneaker to an inaudible rhythm in his head. She is the only left-handed student of the seventeen, and tilts her answer sheet at a nearly perfect right angle, even though she’s not really writing on it, per se. He reads each problem very slowly and carefully, and she moves her lips when she reads, which is kind of cute and amusing to watch. She pulls her arms from the sleeves of her sweater, and stabs one out through the neck hole with vicious confidence to make her circles when she’s sure of the answer, but timidly peeks it out from the waistline when she’s more doubtful. In my head, I nickname this one “Turtle”, though she is one of the first to finish. There are only three boys in the class, and they are slower to answer than the vast majority of the girls. He checks the clock after each answer. She obsessively covers her answer sheet while working on the problem in her book, constantly shuffling her papers.

*shuffle shuffle*

On Wednesday, I opt for black slacks and a white shirt and red tie, forgoing a sport coat. My ten year old deerskin shoes have a more traditional hard sole that taps on the floor as I stroll around the room, in stark contrast to the teacher’s squeaky sneakers. By this time, I’ve figured out that pacing slowly, about the same pace as the ticking of the clock on the wall, will get me through the day with less pain.

She finishes first today, a full 45 minutes ahead of the next student. It’s math day, Barbie can go suck an egg. He’s kind of antsy today, and the rhythmic tapping is absent. She falls well behind the other students right from the start. She sits up very straight, relaxed and elegant, and looks more like a young school teacher grading papers than a middle school student under the gun. She slouches down in her chair in stark contrast just across the aisle. He works his problems out on the scrap paper first, then colors his answer, while she works all the answers out in the book itself, completing a whole page before she goes back and fills in the answer sheet several questions at a time. I know all their names by this morning, having had little else to do. Some of them are friends of my son so I have a head start, and he “dated” this girl and that one, and I think that one over there as well, once or twice. The only noises in the room are the sounds of shuffling papers, scribbling pencils, squeaking tennis shoes, and the tapping of my soles.

*tap tap*

My son has spoken to one of his former girlfriends, and my shoes and the teacher’s nearly drove her insane in the quiet of the day before. I opt for the green suit and soft soles again on Thursday. They’re nearly silent. Most of the students are breezing though, with no hint of frustration or massive effort. Lefty is very organized and methodical, neatly marking up her Periodic Table with lines and headers and notes and divisions before she starts. It’s five minutes into the exam before she even cracks the test booklet, but still she finishes first. I’m thinking these students have a very good Science teacher. Not very many of them are skipping any questions to come back for later, just a few here and there. Turtle has her arms properly in her sweater. He’s catching up to the rest, though he fell a little behind early. She wears a smirk that says, “Are you kidding me? Did you really just ask me such a dumb question?” I’m encouraged.

*circle circle*

The first three students finish nearly as a group, and after a brief pause the bulk of the class close their exams faster than I can keep track.

Rhythm-norhythm boy has pulled his hood up over his head, attempting to mask his eyes which are closed. He opens them occasionally to circle answers to questions which don’t even appear on the open page of his test book. I bring it to the attention of the teacher. He reassures me that it’s not unusual for this boy who dreams of being a rap artist. We do all we can to hover by his desk, to no effect whatsoever. I’m saddened that he will fail his Science exam and not move on to high school.

*shuffle shuffle*

*tap tap*

*circle circle*



u r doin it rong!

I can’t say anything to him, but I want to. It’s killing me, but all I can do is scuff my shoe as I meander past, hoping it will bring him out of dreamland and back to reality. It doesn’t. He “finishes” at the tail end of the bulk of the class, leaving only three students to complete the task. They finish shortly thereafter, and I keep watch of the students for the third straight day while the teacher carries his priceless Tupperware box back to the office. I have very conflicting emotions about the experience, but by the time I squirm into the driver’s seat of my car, those emotions compete for attention with the pain and numbness alternating in my legs. I just want to get home while I can still press the brake pedal.

Could I help a boy like that? Would I give up in frustration? Do I really want to be a teacher? Sonuvabitch that spike through my back and leg hurt. I’d better decide soon, I’m not getting any younger. I think I could do it physically, if I can stand, sit, and pace as necessary. Could I deal with the non-physical part of it on a daily basis? I think so.

I’ve bitched before about some of the attitudes of some of the teachers there. I have to say that during my few hours there over the last few days, I saw some of the best and some of the worst of some of the teachers. Though my total interaction with the teachers was limited, there were a few things I saw that were, frankly, appalling. They were incidents that I would consider rather inappropriate and demeaning – problems I am powerless to mitigate from the outside. Could I help or would I burn out and fade into the background? I’m thinking I have to at least try, my body be damned.

With the large influx to this area of Marines and staff expected over the next few years, the district is going to be stretched way beyond its already insufficient ability to supply teachers. I think I’ll pop over to the local community college today, and see how things go.

From Whence Came the Art:

That image is titled ƒinals, by ƒreg @ Flickr

55 Responses to “Intimate Exam”

  1. Kym Says:

    GO FOR IT! I’m a teacher (albeit homeschooling right now with tutoring on the side) I love it. And people who see kids as people are so needed!

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    I went and picked up an admissions packet today. I have a catalog, an admissions application, the tuition and fee schedule, the financial aid form, the transcript submission forms, the study guides for the placement exams, the calendar, and the obligatory “we are the greatest college in the universe” booklet.

    Kinda scary. My classmates will be young enough to be my children. I’m grounding the first one who laughs at me.

  3. Kevin at Says:

    You are a teacher, now all you need is the certificate.

    That’s probably why you attempted to go into ministry before you de-converted. You likely have the skill set.

  4. Lou FCD Says:

    I hope you’re right, Kevin.

    Time will tell.

  5. Kevin at Says:

    When someone on AtBC says “How do I…?” you’re always the first to jump in with an answer. Even when it’s not about an exotic sexual position.

    You want to teach.

    (Plus if you teach High School you can score the really good drugs.)

  6. Kevin at Says:

    One more thing…totally OT…

    Are you watching the Andromeda Strain?

    It’s freakin’ me out that it’s not the original movie. I think I’m old.

  7. Lou FCD Says:

    Heh. I have more drugs than I want already, so that’s not really helpful, Kev. Plus, they run sniffer dogs through the schools here from time to time, so I imagine it keeps the problem to a minimum, I’d guess.

    Sadly, they usually find at least one dumb ass when they do their searches. Seriously, if you’re a student and you know they’re going to do the odd random search, why on earth would you bring that shit to school? It’s not rocket science, kids. I’ll never understand that. Same thing used to happen in the military. There was always one idiot who failed the piss test, even when they were scheduled and not random.


    They remade The Andromeda Strain? Huh. Was it any good? (I usually hate the do-overs, but not always.)

  8. Kevin at Says:

    They remade it for A&E. It’s a two-parter. Part I is replaying today from 1 to 3pm and part II is on tonight.

    I’m going to have part I on today at my desk this afternoon. I’m not sure yet whether I like it or not. I haven’t watched the original is so many years that it’s hard for me to compare.

  9. Lou FCD Says:

    I haven’t seen it in forever either. I won’t get to today, I’ve got a bunch of things to do that will keep me busy for the better part of the day today.

    I just made the following comment on The Bathroom Wall, but I thought you might enjoy it here as well:

    I just had to look up my old high school to find out how to go about getting my transcripts so I can enroll in college. Boy, was that a fun email to write.

    I kept it short and light. No point in pissing them off until the transcript is in my hand.

    From my high school’s website:

    Competent instruction in general sciences, and biology as well as advanced instruction in biology, chemistry, and physics in a well-equipped room has established a strong science department at CBS. Creationism and a proper view of evolution, based on Scripture, are foundational elements in the department.


  10. Kevin at Says:

    I didn’t know you went to a fundy high school as well as college. Good for you. There may be hope for you yet.

    I drove by a church Sunday who, at 7pm, were hosting a group called “The Fundamental Men” from some college I’d never heard of. I didn’t know whether to chuckle or cry.

  11. Lou FCD Says:

    Yeah. Not only that, but I went there voluntarily and paid my own tuition (except the last little bit).

    What the hell was I thinking? Oh, that’s right… I wasn’t, and that’s the point.

  12. Lou FCD Says:

    I’m waiting for an email reply that goes something like, “We know who you are, and what you’ve been up to. You ain’t gettin’ no damned transcript! mwuahhahahahahah”

  13. Lou FCD Says:

    Hey, I musta done good (or at least not horribly badly). The school just called and asked if I would proctor tomorrow and Thursday for students who were absent and need to make up parts of the exam.

  14. Kevin at Says:

    I hate this post.

    I keep wanting to make jokes about “proctoring”.

  15. Kevin at Says:

    I have the mind of a 12 year old.

  16. Lou FCD Says:

    Then so do we both.

    Hey, if I study the art of being a proctor, does that make me…

  17. Kevin at Says:

    Yeah, I had that same joke in my head…

    That’s just sad…

  18. Kevin at Says:

    My eldest called this morning to tell me he got engaged to his long-time girlfriend.

    I called him later, this is our conversation:

    Me: Hey, the guy two doors down has a job that gets him all kinds of dairy products for free.
    Him: Like what?
    Me: You know, milk, pudding, yogurt–dairy products. It’s great, he’ll give us anything we want.
    Him: Cool.
    Me: Yeah. But then today the guy on the other side came by. He is selling his cow and wanted to know if I wanted to buy it. I told him “why should I buy the cow when I can get the milk for free?”
    Him: You’re retarded.

    Imagine what my childrens’ lives are like.

  19. Lou FCD Says:

    heh heh heh. Good one.

    I don’t think I have to imagine much, Kevin. It’s much the same here.

  20. Diana Says:

    Were you able to talk to an advisor? Can you carry over credits from past colleges?

  21. Diana Says:

    Did you get any answers on financial aid; through school or otherwise?? Wonderman was questioning, apparently from your previous conversation.

  22. Lou FCD Says:

    I’ve been a little busy and beat up the last few days, and spent last night at the ER with my dad.

    EOGs for eighth graders who needed special accommodations yesterday, then sixth and seventh grade students today. I haven’t really felt up to doing much afterwards, so I’ve been alternating between a novel by Dave Heddle and brushing up on Trig and English for the entrance exams.

    Pop’s OK, just the damned ear thing again. I’m still waiting to hear back about my high-school transcripts, and I keep forgetting to call Marshall. I don’t know if they’ll take my Marshall credits, being over ten years old and all. I mean, they’re making me take the placement exams again, soooo….

  23. Kevin at Says:

    Guess what? One of my pay channels has the Andromeda Strain 1971 CE version. I am watching it have it on in the other room while I diligently work.

  24. Lou FCD Says:

    Seems to be a running theme lately.

  25. Kevin at Says:

    I added the CE just for you. Hope ya like it. I got it at Target. It was on sale.

  26. Lou FCD Says:

    Oh, good. I’m glad it wasn’t too expensive.

  27. Vigilantism Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Vigilantism.

  28. Lou FCD Says:

    There wasn’t really a point to miss. Just some observations.

  29. Kevin at Says:

    Two Jehovah’s Witnesses came by and brought me a book the other day. To my surprise it used “BCE” and “CE”.

  30. Lou FCD Says:

    That is kind of odd.

    I’m trying and failing to pull their exact doctrine on Jesus out of my butt (hey, that’s where they found it).

    Just woke up from a nap induced by inadvertent abstention from coffee this morning, my brain isn’t quite working yet.

  31. Lou FCD Says:

    CARM claims that JWs believe Jesus is a powerful angel, Michael incarnate specifically, and though CARM is notorious for twisting reality and other people’s doctrine to suit themselves, that seems to be ringing bells for me.

  32. Lou FCD Says:

    WatchTower says that they believe Jesus to be the son of Jehova, but that he is a separate individual, and inferior to Jehova.

    If CARM were right, that would have explained their indifference to the change in dating conventions, but given WatchTower’s somewhat different position…

  33. Kevin at Says:

    The two that came to see me were pretty cool. They were nervous at first, but I tried to reassure them and they calmed down pretty quickly.

    What was cool was they were open to hearing and considering some of the questions I raised. They said they were willing to come back.

    I think there’s potential there as he is a physics teacher at the high school and she teaches math (husband and wife team.)

    They actually said some pretty interesting and perceptive things. Of course, they were locked in to some stupid statements as well, but when I challenged them they were obviously thoughtful about it. They were sure I was wrong, but admitted they couldn’t see how and they’d have to study it.

    They’re supposed to come back in a couple weeks.

    Surprisingly they readily accepted the idea that the universe is billions of years old. I didn’t talk to them specifically about the age of modern man. After reading the book it seems they will likely say man is 6K or so.

    That’s pretty easy to demonstrate as incorrect.

    As far as their beliefs…

    They don’t believe in the trinity. I hadn’t read that Jesus is Michael, though that may be accurate. I’ve just been going through their book and marking my questions and comments on the pages.

  34. Lou FCD Says:

    The thing I remember most about JW theology is that it tends to morph without admitting to it, so it’s kind of hard to say if that ever was really part of it, but it really does seem like that was the case at one time.

    I think they tend to have a high turn-over rate, as well.

    We had some BoJos biking around the neighborhood a few weeks ago (I think they were actually Mormons). I hung at the house, hoping they’d come our direction, but eventually I had to run out.

    Of course they knocked while I was gone for a few minutes. Little John got the door and says he just gave them the heave-ho, which is probably best in his case.

    I was a little disappointed I’d missed them.

  35. Kevin at Says:

    We’re a sad pair Lou. I was excited I got to talk to them. We need to get out more.

  36. Lou FCD Says:

    Nuh-uh. That way leads to trouble.

    I walk out the door, and the world trembles in fear.

  37. Kevin at Says:

    I walk out the door and the world doubles over in pointing and laughing.

  38. JanieBelle Says:

    Don’t let him kid you, Kevin. The Boy walks out the door and Mrs. FCD stands there with a big stick and a stopwatch.

    He is never late.

  39. Lou FCD Says:

    You’re killing me here, JanieBelle.

    I have a reputation to uphold, y’know.

  40. Diana Says:

    Yeah, some reputation, you don’t even ‘walk’ out the door. It’s more of a pathetic hobble.

  41. Lou FCD Says:

    You guys are great for my ego.


  42. Kevin at Says:


    It’s good to know at least one of them has a big stick.

    **insert 12 year old giggle**

  43. Kevin at Says:

    And I’ll have you know I completely ignored the comic potential of Mrs. FCD needing to use a stop watch.

  44. Lou FCD Says:

    Your generosity was not lost on me, Kevin. It’s good to have friends like you.

  45. Kevin at Says:

    I’m a giver. I can’t help it.

  46. Lou FCD Says:

    Huh. I had you pegged as a receiver…


  47. Lou FCD Says:

    Alright, that’s enough. Don’t you girls have some smut that needs writing?

    Kate, your blog is collecting dust. Do something about that.

  48. Corporal Kate Says:

    Well look who suddenly wants to be on top.

    Your wish,…

  49. Lou FCD Says:

    Well that right there is saying something.

    You’ve always got something.

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