Shaken, Not Stirred

I mentioned a couple months ago that I’m in the process of taking a class that could potentially have huge (and awesome) repercussions for my life. I completed the coursework over the winter break and scheduled the final exam for the end of January.

I felt confident.

I have an image of myself as a good student, built up over a lifetime’s worth of data points. I generally do well at school, scoring at the top in my class and passing tests with near perfect scores. It’s not as good as it sounds. Yes, that ability makes school easy, but I don’t always do so well with the real life application where success is more about taking risks than memorizing facts. In other words, you want me on your team for Trivial Pursuit but you may not want me by your side if we have to build a survival shelter.

Regardless, I felt comfortable going into the final exam. I was consistently making high As on my practice tests and knew the material in the textbook. I was nervous, sure, but I just reminded myself of all of the times I was nervous before a test and walked out smiling.

I turned on my computer and my volunteer proctor opened the exam file for me. The first few questions were easy. They were either exactly the same as some of the course and test preparation material or closely related.

And then came number 7. A few short sentences that failed to trigger any recognition in my brain. I searched my memory files frantically, looking for any clues that could help me with this question. There were none.

By the end of the 150 question exam, I estimated that a full third of the questions were not addressed in the textbook or highlighted in the course materials. I was nervous.

Steeling myself, I clicked submit.

The little wheel seemed to turn endlessly. Finally,

“Congratulations. You passed.”

“Score: 77%”

My first thought? Relief. That hoop was successfully jumped.

My second thought? 77?? I haven’t scored that low on any exam since algebra II in 10th grade (yes, and now I teach math. I know!).

If that was the end of it, I would be okay. After all, in the real world, scores don’t matter. Just the end result.

But it’s not the end of it.

Now, I have to take the state exam.

Normally, I would just see it as another hoop.

But now my confidence is shaken. My internal narrative that paints myself as a good student and test taker is being questioned due to that single data point.

It’s interesting how much we struggle when our self-image is called into question. When I fell repeatedly while skiing this winter, it didn’t cause my confidence to stumble because I have never formed a picture of myself as a skier. Yet one metaphorical fall on a test, and everything is called into question.

The state exam is in three weeks. I borrowed an additional book to help me prepare. I have scheduled study times on certain days leading up to the exam. I have the website of a cram course cued in case of emergency. I’ve verified the suitability of my calculator and checked to see what forms of identification are required.

Everything is in place to make sure I know the material and can meet the testing requirements.

But I’m still shaken.To those around me, I’ve laughed it off. Pretended it didn’t bother me.

But it does.

One of the lasting side effects of betrayal is that you don’t always trust your ability to interpret data points accurately. I want to dismiss this score as an an outlier, but I don’t know if that’s accurate.

So preparation for this exam is twofold: study my butt off and work to rebuild my confidence.

I’m shaken, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it stir me.

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20 thoughts on “Shaken, Not Stirred

  1. During my last job hunt, I applied to work at a video store. I nailed the first interview…then I was told in order to be in management you needed to take a test. Easy peasy right?
    I was shocked at the intensity of this test. There were math problems and word problems and I think even some science stuff. I was convinced that I would fail that test. My winning personality was going to be no match for that test…I do not do well on tests, never have.
    I passed with a 72%. I don’t know how I did it, but I guess I’m way smarter than I give myself credit for LOL

      1. Love it! Just goes to show that a good test grade just demonstrates that you know how to take that test. It doesn’t prove anything else. Keep using that personality!:)

  2. You have such a positive attitude that I am sure you will pass with flying colours. It is fantastic that you are doing this. There is nothing as confidence-building after a fall-down as education and achievement. I wish you well.
    (PS. What is the course? Is it to add to your teaching, or a different direction?)

    1. Thanks!:)

      Different direction entirely. Which is why it has me shaken. I’ve been teaching for 14 years. That’s a long time. Then again, I was with my ex for 16 and survived that transition!

      1. Ah! Congratulations!. I remember ‘discussing’ this with you about 12-18 months ago (after my cousin had started a new career at age 59). At that point you did not consider it. What made you change your mind?
        By the way, it is on the cards for me too. However I am still constrained by “the process” (property settlement) which is taking forever.
        I am buoyed on by your daring into the unknown.

      2. That’s right! I’ve wanted a change for a while, but been resistant due to my financial situation. This opportunity came along and is too good to pass up.

        May we both have new careers soon:)

  3. I love the layout and graphics on your blog. As for your current endeavor, I freaked out at tests long before I was betrayed – hang in there and you will do just fine. In fact you will probably surprise yourself and come through with flying colors.

  4. I would ask first, how long has it been since you have had to take a test or been in a classroom as a student? When I returned, well let’s just say the first few tests rattled my brain and shook me to the core. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked in, just go with what you know about your normal and then follow your plan.

    1. Only a few years. I wrapped up a master’s and my gifted certification in 2008 and then turned around and got my HS math certification (exam only). I borrowed a different book from a friend and it contains some of the material that was on the test but not in the course. Looks like it was a case of mismatch. Grrr…

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