Thoughts of a D+ Test

I don’t even know how I could’ve done better. I worked hard. It said I didn’t learn. He says I didn’t learn. Impossible test. I tried my best. Best not good enough. Crawl into a hole. How does my test feel? I didn’t remember the right things. Inaccurate measure. There goes that GPA. I suck. So bad. At least I’m still cute.

Low. Bottom. Tears. Stupid. Failure. Loser.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re at complete loss for an answer?

A few weeks ago I was in this predicament while my face turned red and I looked over a test for one of my college courses.

Simply put: I didn’t know the answers.

Moreover, I had NO CLUE what the answers were.


I got a D+

Yep. My worst test grade ever. Ever.

D+ Oops!

Here’s the deal: I’ve enjoyed a successful academic career. Last semester I graduated from my community college with high honors. Furthermore, I love this class. The lectures are amazing. The instruction is amazing. The poetry and stories we read are amazing. I’ve been learning so much.

As for the assessment portion of this course?

Not so hot.

This assessment was not a proper measure of what I learned. I most definitely learned more than what my “D+” test suggested.

But this test was a mindless recollection of facts that got assessed. The bulk of the test featured matching questions and didn’t go to the heart of the literature.

This got me thinking about how I want to use assessment in my classroom. My vision for my students is to prepare them for real life.

In this case, real life is not memorizing which random line from an extremely long story matches with this extremely minor character.

I want to go straight to the heart of the matter.

Why should my students read this story?
How does it apply to their lives?
How can this unit of study help prepare them for life outside of their education?

If the purpose behind an assessment does not answer all of these questions, I have done my students a disservice.

After I got my graded test back I went to my writer’s notebook and wrote the opening paragraph of this blog. I know for damn sure I don’t ever want my students to feel this way.

I felt that this assessment I took was just an instructor marching through content and activities without a true vision statement.  Now please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I love this instructor’s lectures and instruction. However, there were flaws with the assessment.

Yesterday my teacher, Dr. Ellington, said something absolutely profound that I will always remember, “Teaching does not give you experience. Learning gives you experience.”

Learning can’t be measured by the amount of hours you spend in front of a group of students.
Learning can’t be measured by an impossible test.
Learning can’t be measured by a five paragraph essay.

As a teacher, I will always be asking myself if my assessments help prepare my students for real life.

In case you were wondering there is a happy ending to this story. The next test focused more on the heart of the matter and featured more critical-thinking essay questions. And I got an A+.