Sample C on the AIMS test asks which resource would be best used to find the population of Tunisia.
“Is that the population before or after the revolution?” a girl asks.
“I’m sorry. Even for a sample question, I’m not allowed to answer you,” I say.
“So you can’t be a teacher and at least clarify a bad question?” she asks.
“What’s an encyclopedia?” a boy asks.
“It’s like wikipedia, but it’s in big fat books,” another girl explains.
“That can’t be the right answer. The numbers wouldn’t be up to date,” he says.
“I think it’s a trick question. Anyone knows you would go online. I think the CIA keeps a page like this that has all the population numbers of other countries,” the boy responds.
“You could just Google it,” a girl says. “Or if you want to be different, you could use Alta Vista.”
“I wouldn’t Google it. I would post it to Twitter and see what each person answers and then compare the sources,” a boy says.
“No, just Google it,” the girl says.
I cut them off, reminding them that even in a sample question, we have to keep answers to ourselves. It’s my job to remind us of the sample question. On most days, I would encourage students to find their own method of solving a problem, but today it’s about uniformity.
When I share the correct answer as encyclopedia, the class laughs.
Not minimal laughter, either. But true laughter. Robust laugher. Straight from the belly laughter. I think they were waiting for a C-list celebrity to jump out and tell us it that it’s all a trick and that we’re being video-taped for a reality show.
“First of all, who would ever want to know the population of Tunisia and second of all who, after asking that question would run to the nearest location of an out-of-date encyclopedia? Seriously, that’s insane,” Google Girl says.
Yep, it’s insane; and while it’s true that we have no C-list celebrity or video camera, we’re putting on a hell of a reality show.
John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at johntspencer.com. He recently finished two books, Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and Drawn Into Danger, a fictional memoir of a superhero.