Now is the Time to Start Freaking Out About Final Exams

Save yourself from the coming wrath!

Arthur Chiaravalli
Dec 8, 2016 · 4 min read
Detail from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (Wikimedia Commons)

As we approach the end of the semester, it’s time renew a yearly teacher ritual: panicking about the material still left to cover before the final.

Obviously, some people get pretty good at this game. For all my ADD, I’ve actually become quite the technocrat over the years. I’ve been willing to hold up this “day of judgement” as my telos, my raison d’être, my eschatological horizon, my god and my all.

At some point we need to realize: this god with its hundred bubbly eyes has a very particular view of what counts for blessed.

“What, by such narrow ways?”

Yes, this god is utterly uninterested in the quality of your instruction, the climate of your classroom, the tight transitions, the clear targets. There are other gods that smile on those virtues. Charlotte Danielson, for one. But that god hardly ever comes around. That god is not even omniscient.

It’s this other god — the god with rows of sleepless, red-rimmed eyes, the god with the letters A, B, C, D, E for pupils. This god cares not for children or teachers or human beings or learning or growth or lighbulb moments. Nor does it care for relationship, relevance, authentic audiences, student-led discussions, student-directed learning, self-regulated learners, culturally responsive teaching, project-based learning, etc. This god doesn’t know any of the terms in The Glossary of Educational Reform.

Except rigor. This god is somewhat partial to the word rigor.

It sees only what it can measure, what it can quantify, what it can assess in a standardized, technocratic, one-size-fits-all way.

It’s a lot like the implied divinity at the end of the Carrie. Not very nuanced in his condemnation of Carrie. Did he even see the first part of the movie?

Anyway, we’re talking about a very output-oriented god.

I’ve never heard him speak, but his spirit teaches us inwardly, allowing us to do those things that please him, to darken his eyes with our pencils. He acknowledges us when we humble ourselves before him. From a standpoint of learning, humility equals things low on Bloom’s taxonomy. Vocabulary, terminology, lower-order cognitive processes, recall, regurgitation. Anything that is objective, distinct, discrete, granular.

Remember man that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.

Never creativity, never originality. O heights of hubris that a creature would seek to become creator. “You are a creature,” he tells us. “You are not made in my image or likeness.” He puts his words in our mouths so that we can repeat them; he gives us sharp pencils to gouge out his blood-lined eyes.

Even with his hundred eyes, he cannot see all. Your creativity, your originality are nothing but stray marks. He will not recognize you. He will shun you. He will say to you, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”

And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

So let us keep our wicks trimmed, for the hour is coming. Let us play our Quizlet Live and Kahoot! Let us dig out that old PowerPoint Jeopardy! Let us make our study guides in the image and likeness of the final! He taketh away every branch that does not beareth fruit.

And rejoice greatly! I say to you again: rejoice! Even though for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Every tear shall be wiped away,
And every study packet shall be recycled,
And every skill and every concept
crammed in those last days
shall be erased from every brain
for former things have passed away.

Lo, the day is coming and now is here when your colleagues will rise up and call you blessed because your students were proficient or at least showed growth.

Hey, please smash the 👏 so more people get to see this.

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Arthur Chiaravalli

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Teacher, learner, thinker. Exploring what’s possible in education.

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