Blank Stares

I’m giving tests in a lot of classes on Friday. I’m also going to be out, so a sub will actually be giving them. (This means that some of my students will have subs in all of their classes on Friday, leading to speculation that the junior teachers are all going to Astroworld together.) This has happened several times this year. If I’m going to be out, I try to make sure it’s on test day because it’s so much easier to find a sub.

Some of my students have no problem with this. “Oh, you’ll be out? Ok. Who’s the sub? Is it someone I like? Oh, you should get Mrs. X!” Others…not so much. I get looks of pure distress. I’m also starting to get accusations. “Again? You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” (Well, yes, because of the sub thing.) “You just don’t want to answer our questions during the test!”

It’s that last statement that baffles me. I don’t answer questions during tests. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m there – I’m not going to tell them how to work the problem. If there’s a typo or something, or if the instructions don’t make sense, that’s different, but a good sub can handle that. “Oh, the problem doesn’t work? Ok, well, write her a note telling her why, or how to fix it, or what you think she meant and then work that problem.” Or sometimes a sub will text me with a question. But I don’t answer student questions on how to work the problem. I just stare at them blankly. Sometimes I say, “Ok…”

I do have a lot of them who like to come up and ask me questions during tests. I don’t get it. They know by now that I’m not going to tell them anything.

They claim that it helps. That me just looking at them helps them understand. In class, students will call me over, and say, “Ok, I’m stuck here. I think I should do this next. And then I’ll do that. And then I do this…but now I’m stuck!” I look at them blankly. “Oh, wait, do I do this? I totally get it! Thanks!”

Literally, I stare at them blankly. I mean, of course, there are times that I help, but there are times when they claim that me looking at them helps them. I think that them talking themselves through their thinking got them unstuck, but they don’t agree.

Does anyone else have students who believe this? I’m considering printing out a picture of me staring at them blankly and taping it to the board on Friday so that they can just look up and see it.

Read my students’ explanations here.

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