teach to the test

November 15, 2004

this, along with other gems such as “declarations, not speculations!” and “our presentations are polished!” is one of the ‘big 8’ tenets of kaplan teaching. i attended my first training session last night, and though i actually am excited to teach, i sort of felt like i was in a christopher guest* movie.

the instructor was a perky former high school teacher, and she said the word ‘kaplan’ more times than you could even imagine. i later found out that this was not an accident: we will actually be graded on our training ‘teach-backs’, and we get more points the more times we say certain words such as ‘kaplan’ and ‘on test day’. so i suppose she was successfully brainwashed, and in time, i will be too. kaaaaaaaaaaaplan.

part of the ‘christopher guest’ effect was the heterogeneity of the students. it’s as if kaplan wrote on their application, eccentrics and upstarts encouraged to apply! there were seven of us altogether. here are a few examples:

sarg: 50-ish teacher, district attourney, and former air force employee who spent 10+ minutes (rather than the requested 2-3) going over her life story. excruciatingly proud of her multiple masters degrees and such. large, square, and imposing. the kind of teacher you would be scared to get in elementary school.

the unc reject: 30ish nurse planning to teach the nclex. appeared to be in pain in front of an audience. mentioned in opening speech about how she was rejected from unc-chapel hill at least 4 times. seems preoccupied with this even though it was at least 12 years ago. asks many incredibly stupid questions in class.

oxycodon girl: i feel really bad for this girl, because she was involved in what sounded like a horrific car accident just weeks earlier (as a passenger) and she had shattered her arm into several pieces. but there was no doubt about it: she had definitely been hitting her pain meds pretty hard. it was kind of funny.

math queen: a post-graduate math major who seemed harmless enough until she broke into a rant while we were just receiving an example teaching lesson about ‘picking numbers’, a kaplan method for completing math problems with variables. “this is absoluately abhorrent to me,” she said. “i can’t believe that kaplan would do this so that businessmen and doctors can pass tests without understanding the algebra behind the problems.” she didn’t stop there – the class basically broke out into a full out debate for several minutes. finally, she was asked to calm down and the instructor told her they would talk after class. questioning the methods? um, hello, that’s SO not the kaplan way!!

furthermore, i liked the ‘picking numbers’ method. it was absolutely something i would do on a test like the SAT, though i would have done it instinctively (i don’t think they would have needed to teach it to me). and i consider myself good at math! she can take her integrity and stuff it. a test is what it is, and i have no problem with the philosophy of ‘do what it takes to get the answer right.’ in fact, i like it. there is more than one way to solve a problem, and one way isn’t ‘better’ than the other, no matter what they teach you in school.

so that was kaplan. to be continued on thursday, with session 2.

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i saw badly drawn boy last night at cat’s cradle in carrboro. he is a funny little man and he was amazing, playing his new album in entirety and many of his older songs. in fact, at the end he got drunk and played the longest exit anthem i’ve ever heard, proclaiming his love for the audience at least 50 or 60 times. it was a great show!

* christopher guest = director of mockumentaries waiting for guffman and best in show, among others. the movies tend towards deadpan mockery of very specific and underexposed segments of american life.

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