Last Saturday, I took what has probably been the most intimidating assessment of my training as an educator: the Illinois language arts/English content area test. This is a key assessment for me, as passing it is a requirement before student teaching next spring.

What is so strange to me about the test is that there was very information to prepare for it: one study guide on the ICTS website, and that’s it. The study guide spelled out all the objectives for testing, but some of them were so vague as to be unhelpful, and the rest left me wondering how best to study.

Fortunately, I can say that my lack of studying didn’t doom me (at least, not from what I can tell): the test was a mere 125 multiple-choice questions, focusing more on methods, pedagogy, and literacy than the “meat” of language arts (especially literature). I was even amazed that the very small portion of the test that was on literature was in fact not even to test one’s knowledge of literature, just one’s ability to analyze it. The only question I can remember, in fact, that can be construed as rote knowledge was a question asking which authors would be best suited for a middle school classroom. Many of the authors were foreign to me, but fortunately, one of the options included Madeleine L’Engle and Richard Peck, both of whom I had experience with through my previous middle school teaching experience. (Sigh of relief on that one!)

It was also remarkable to me that many of the questions – perhaps even an equal portion – were directed toward middle school classrooms. With so many of my classmates practically swearing off middle school as though it were below them, I was amazed at that. (Side note: I happened to see an old episode of King of the Hill where Peggy is substitute teaching in high school, and one teacher said what I think many high school teachers think about middle school: “This isn’t middle school, this is real life.” A hilarious yet disheartening commentary.)

I won’t hear back about the test for another few weeks, but I have high hopes that I didn’t fail and might – just maybe – have even done well on it. I hope so: if not for anxiety, then for the privilege of not having to pay for the test again. (Sorry, state of IL – you don’t need my $86 that badly.)

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