National Exam Day vs. a Special Ed. English Teacher

Yesterday was national exam day, or matriculation, or “Bagrut”, as it is called here. This year was one of the difficult ones.

Photo by Gil Epshtein

And I’m not talking about the complexity of the exams. I didn’t have time to look at them!

Every national exam day is a busy one for me. As a national counselor of English for deaf and hard of hearing students, on the day of the exam itself (and the days preceding the exam)I respond to a large number of questions from schools who have only one such student. They generally need clarifications regarding the paperwork that needs to be stapled to our students’ exams.

At my school we, of course, know what must be stapled where but we have volume! About 30 of our 62 students took the exams, some took more than one. There is the usual round of minor crises to be solved – students who don’t bring their pens or dictionaries, students who come slightly late or arranged to be picked up an hour before the test ends, the usual.

This year, on top of that, all hell broke loose.

We have two students with issues related to anger management (a trigger will cause them to move from being sweet to “Hulk-like” at an amazing speed).

The exams are given in three sessions. During the second session one of these students (we’ll call him L) was taking an exam. The other students (we’ll call him A), along with a few other kids who had taken the first session of the exam and were waiting for the third session, camped out in an empty classroom. I wasn’t aware of this.

This empty classroom was the one adjoining the exam room. Worse, the wall separating the rooms was a dry wall (made of plaster).

It would have gone unnoticed if they had sat quietly and used sign language. But it seems that someone pulled “A”‘s arm and his watch fell off and the metal strap separated into sections. That did it. “A” started pounding the wall with his fists and screaming.

“L” is hard of hearing and he certainly heard THAT. When I came to see what was going on “L” was already getting worked up and making threats

Now, if you were under any illusion that I’m the kind of special-ed teacher that soothes the outbursts of the angry student, then now is the time to get rid of that thought. I can help them find the ways that will enable them to study English. But when a 6 foot 19 year old is enraged I call for help. Other staff members got him out into the yard, fixed his watch strap and calmed him down.

In fact he calmed down so completely that less than an hour and a half later he took his exam. “L” was supposed to be in the same room for his last exam but I moved him into another room with students taking a totally different level of exam – did not want them in the same room! That caused a bit of technical confusion but nobody disagreed with my decision!

Some exam days have gone by so smoothly that I go to gym class afterwards. Yesterday was not one of them!

But it’s over now. And I must tell you, these kids are NOT usually (except for certain days!) the ones I would call my most difficult students.

But this post is long enough and I have written a post entitled “Will the REAL Difficult Student Please Stand Up” over at the iTDi blog (as part of a focus on working with difficult students) so I’ll be off to bed now! Good night!

2 thoughts on “National Exam Day vs. a Special Ed. English Teacher”

  1. Churchill once said, “Keep Calm! Carry On!” Though I am not quite sure it would work in the situation you described. Thanks, dear Naomi for sharing in such a visual way. Visualising Ideas 🙂 Major important. Most people, even within the system and particularly many in decision making positions don’t really get it and are clueless what really happens behind closed doors. I remember a similar situation many years ago. My 7th grade non-readers were finally taking test! I was soooo proud! I remember watching them actually sitting at their desks like other students … and then Ron got up to hand in his test. He walked by Patrick’s desk. Not quite sure what he did, but Patrick was convinced that he was looking at his test and before I knew what was happening desks were flying in the classroom. Luckily, our maintenance man heard the commotion and came running. There was no way I could separate them and as you said, there are times when soothing words do not do the job.
    So, my dear – thanks for doing what you are doing so devotedly and bringing it to the attention of others! Hugs 🙂

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