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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 12 2011

Post-Praxis Feelings


I contemplated leaving that as the full body of this post. This morning did not go well. Everyone has been telling me that ‘you probably did better than you think’ and ‘you always think you do poorly’– but I am quite convinced that I could not have passed my Middle School Science Praxis this morning. I have been going through a whole range of emotions: disappointment in myself, sadness at what the implications of this might be, anger at ETS for their practice test, and emotional resignation.

I had a very hopeful and encouraging first 35 questions of the test. No faint markings to go back to and re-evaluate, no circled questions– just confident answer after confident answer. Then I hit a series of questions of about 5 that I couldn’t answer in a row and I felt myself getting hot and overwhelmed and confused. I plowed through, only answering ones I feel semi–>fully confident with. There just seemed to be more and more blank bubbles piling up on my answer sheet. I left those for later review and proceeded to the first of three constructed response essays. And I hit a wall. The first one just threw me for a total loop and my brain turned to mush. I read the prompt so many times that the words stopped making sense. Needless to say, it was the physics question. I skipped it and proceeded to the biology essay, which went well. The astronomy question went okay, though I may have included one less than accurate statement. I then went back to the MCs and was able to see a few that I could answer. But, still, way too many that I couldn’t. I guessed- and not educated guessing involving eliminating unlikely choices (more along the lines of… well, the answer hasn’t been ‘B’ for a while, so…)- at more questions than I care to admit. I then went back to the first essay and stalled again and just wrote absolute nonsense until the final minute was called. I pity the poor grader who gets my booklet.

I know this is mopey and casts me in a really negative light but I feel like such a failure- something that I frankly don’t have much experience with. I worked SO HARD preparing for this test, I really did. When I told TFA, my friends and my family that I didn’t feel qualified to take this test I received an undeserved level of confidence in me– ‘If I was bright enough to get into TFA, I am bright enough to pass this test!’ Right? I tried to believe it too, despite a decade of physics and chemistry being incomprehensible– I thought I could just buck up and learn it. There is something to it when someone says they are not ‘a science person’ and it is perfectly acceptable for an English major to say this and for everyone to believe it. Somehow, because I can be a biology person and a geology person, and an evolutionary theory and ecology person TFA thought I could be ‘a science (including physics and chemistry!) person’ but I don’t think that I can. The degree of hopelessness that I felt with that first essay question made me realize that I have NO BUSINESS teaching these concepts to children.

So what if by some chance (about a 0.5%) that I pass (and it would be just that- the absolute minimum required score I am sure)? Do I trust TFA and the Praxis and step into a classroom where I will have little brains in my hands? Or do I trust myself?

What if I fail? What if I fail by a little bit- a bit that might be made up by taking it again during the strongly discouraged test date that’s in June– if I can just stuff a few more formulas that have no meaning for me into my head…? I want to tell TFA now (again) that I was misplaced. But CMs are put in placements all the time that they don’t mesh with. You suck it up for the kids and do the best you can, right? Ugh. How is that going to help them? I doubt the likelihood that they will reassign my subject area and there are no guarantees with region or subject if I defer.

Sorry this is so melodramatic. I know self-doubt comes with the territory for most CMs but I feel so defeated and disillusioned today. I also have slept 6 hours since I woke up on Thursday. I still have the EE:CK (which typing made me realize contain my jumbled initials, EKC) on 4/30. And so much pre-Institute work. And… this could all be done before it begins…

3 Responses

  1. Christine

    I just took this test today, too! And I have to say…I felt just about the same exact way you did about the test (including the aversion to the first constructed response). I skipped 21 questions my first go through the MC and answered the second two CR before the first, which I hastily finished with a couple minutes left. Ah AND I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the test. All in all, I feel like our responses to the test were pretty similar, though strangely I feel a lot more positive about it. My region’s state does have the lowest required score to pass of any state that requires the Praxis for certification, but even on an absolute scale I don’t feel that it was the worst ever. And hey, they DO scale the test slightly to even out scores between those who get really difficult versions and those who get easier ones. If you want to talk about the test more to vent or feel better about it or anything, I’m open!

  2. CLB

    I can totally sympathize with you. Granted I did not take the same test as you but the two that I took today left me with more worry than confidence. I, too, resigned to the “well, I haven’t answered “B” in awhile” guessing method and there were truly things I just didn’t know.

    Get some sleep over the next few days and let the test go to rest. If you have the opportunity to take it again (April 30th or I think you mentioned you have through June) then that could always be an option. If you register and then end up passing ETS will cancel your registration and refund your money (one of the few times ETS doesn’t take us for all we’re worth!)

    And yes, I will agree with the reality that we often do better than we think we did. Hang in there.

  3. Brennen

    I remember feeling the exact same way last year with the secondary mathematics content exam. I didn’t pass, and I remember feeling so defeated. But, then I found out that a LOT of people didn’t pass either. It’s completely okay if you don’t pass the exam the 1st time around. It does not make you any less amazing or capable of being a great teacher. You’ll have a second chance, and you’ll do fine! Most likely, you’ll experience this same feeling a lot during your first year teaching. But, you’ll find that it’s okay to not always be perfect and get things just right the first time around.

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