Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One Down, Two to Go!

Good news, good news. On Monday the 25th, at around 4:30 pm EST I received my unofficial score for the NYSTCE CST 005 - a highly respectable passing grade. In fact the grade I received on the exam, assuming that it is marked in a logical way, was inline with the grades I've usually received on these kinds of tests.

My concerns about the essay question were totally unfounded as I received a perfect 3001 on it, without ever using the phrase "Spanish-American War". What I mean to say with all of this is that this test may be hard, but I don't think it is everything people have made it out to be. If you don't know conventional, dead-White-men, presidential, wars and battles, major political movement U.S. History you're dead in the water — that much is clear. However, a close and thoughtful reading of the Complete Idiot's Guide to American History solves this problem — I wouldn't bother reading about anything before Colonial America as there may only be one question on the First Nations of North America and it would likely be in the context of contact with Europeans.

Beyond that, the real challenge of the test is the same challenge you find with any big exam, which is to have the strength to get through it being as thoughtful and critical as possible over the course of the four hours. Also, it should be said that having to score 220 out of 300 to pass means you need to score at least a 75% on an admittedly tough test. This means that for people who made it through their social science courses pulling off 60s and low-70s will need to take their studying very very seriously.

I felt good when I left the exam room, and it was only when I got to the car and looked up Teddy Roosevelt that I started worrying about failing. The fact that I did as well as I felt I had walking out of the examination room tells me that this exam is not all it's pumped up to be. Being creative doesn't help on this exam, but a slow, critical approach to each question will equate to success. If I had failed this exam, it would have been the first time in my life where my feelings walking out were totally opposite to the final result, and that would have shaken me to the core. But the result I received yesterday confirms for me that this is all doable and worth only enough anxiety to get oneself in the right mindset for studying. Taking the CST lightly is a fool's game, but allowing it to cripple you with fear is just as foolish.

So, now I have the Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAST) and the Assessment of Teaching Skills - Written (ATS-W), which I will be writing on August 20th. Writing eight hours of examinations will likely be killer, but I'm keen to get this all out of the way as quickly as possible. Once all three tests are written, the only tasks left to me are going to be my student teaching, receiving certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, and finally finding a job. I'm getting closer and closer and I couldn't be happier.

Finally, I received word from the TDSB and my first placement starting in September will be at Lanor Junior Middle School with a grade 8 class. Lanor is in my neighbourhood and from my googling it appears to be a very active and interesting school, and I'm particularly excited about working closely with pre-high school students for the first time. My second placement is yet to be determined but will be in a high school.

----

1 The fact that each of the five sections of the test are marked out of 300, and your final grade is also out of 300 goes a fair distance in demonstrating, for those outside of the process, how utterly bizarre this all is. There is no explanation for how the mark was arrived at, no description of how different sections were weighted, and absolutely no help in getting answers to these concerns — trust me I've looked into this extensively. If anyone out there has any more information than I do, I'd love to hear about it.