They are in every classroom in every state in every country around the globe. They beg to be seen as individuals, as distinct students, as nonconformists, yet throughout the history of testing we see them replicated in classrooms every where. They are the hair-twirlers, the constant snackers, the leg shakers, the gazers, the sleepers, the quadruple checkers, the experimenters, the drummers, the rushers, the driven ones, the emotional break-down testers, and the early finishers. Test my theory. During the next state assessment, when you are desperate for cognitive stimulation, analyze your testing group. You will see them. And you will smile.
The Hair-Twirler – Also morphing at times into a hair smoother, this student is compulsive, attempting to bring order into this abstract and random domain of testing. The test is something to be conquered – a group of seemingly arbitrary questions that require definition.
This category is naturally more alluring to girls, but guys too are caught twisting the hair at the nape of their neck or trying to bring that unruly curl into its proper place. As if by doing so, the task before them will somehow gain purpose. The twirl, they twist, they prod and they persist until they feel accomplished.
She sits in her chair twirling the same piece of hair through the same two fingers over and over again, and I wonder, how long can she keep this up. Her hair is straight and will not become any straighter by the manipulation. Yet, she twirls on…and on. After ever two or three twirls, she smooths the hair to assess the situation. All hairs are still in their proper place. I glance across the room. Another twirler, except she occasionally brings the ends of the twirled lock into her mouth to taste it. I must look away.
The Constant Snacker – These students enter the testing room ready for the day. Their expression says, “I got this.” The teacher packages up all cell phones and gives directives about where lunches should be placed. She notices that this child still has a lunch with them. “Oh, this is just my snack,” they say. A bag overflowing with food? Really? Ok, then. There are more important battles to fight this morning.
Pencils, test booklets, and scantrons have not even been distributed yet and the child is already eating. “Did you eat breakfast?” you ask. “Of course!” he mumbles through a mouth full of marshmallows. That smile! All is right in the world as long as they have snacks.
Testing begins. He is on snack number two. Goldfish. Then on to fruit snacks, cheerios, granola bars, string cheese, Airhead Extremes. I stop him at the Flaming Hot Cheetos. I imagine his test scores disqualified because of spicy cheese smudges. He cheerfully agrees to wait until lunch and proceeds to break out the popcorn.
Across the room another child is oblivious to the world as a twelve-inch ribbon of fruit roll hangs from her mouth.