Proctoring – A Scary Story

It sounds like something a doctor does to your heiny, doesn’t it?

So, my old temp agency called me a few weeks ago to see what I was up to. They were looking for some help proctoring exams at a business school in the city. So, I said yes. How hard could this be? I’ve taken many, many tests where I sit in a room with a large amount of people and two random folks sit at the front offering up extra pencils and making sure no one talks or peaks at their neighbors paper. I got this, I thought. Who can’t sit in a room for 3 hours twiddling their thumbs? An easy 60 bucks. Bam.

Oh, but I was in for something that didn’t look at all like sitting in a room and doodling on paper while every once in a while glancing at the clock. Oh no. First, I was handed a giant stack of papers to hand out at different times. Part one and part two plus hand outs for part two. Also, the grad students (read: adults, allegedly) were to bring a write up that they were to use during the essay portion. But this write up needed to be clean, meaning no writing or highlighting on it. So, between part one and part two I also had to collect the write up from each student and shuffle through them to check for cheaters, and then hand them back minus the written on ones.

Ok. Problem #1, I have no idea what the most efficient way is to hand out a test in a big room where the desks are positioned in a rainbow of U shapes, especially when there is only me to do all of the handing. So, I start on one side, people ask me if they can start, I ask what usually happens, they say either way, so I say go ahead and start. And make my way around the room handing out tests. I give the room an extra 3 minutes to make up for the last person’s delay in receiving their test. Everyone gets at least 30 min. Bam. I feel that I’ve covered my bases, but really I’m feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing and have NO backup, and NO authority whatsoever. As the clock ticks by I keep thinking, What the hell am I doing here?

Problem #2, When I do call time, people don’t stop writing! (You mean, grown ups don’t follow the rules? What?!) 90% of the room begins to rush at me to give me their tests – in the worst disorganized way possible, everyone keeps asking me how long they get for a break, and then by the time I look up 5 minutes has passed and their are still 3 people scribbling away. AH! I yell at them to stop writing in my most authoritative voice. They ignore me. I say it again, they look up and finish a sentence and when I say NOW, they finally put their pens down and leisurely get up to give me their tests. I stifle the urge to have a panic attack when I realize people are now filing back into the room for part 2 of their test.

Problem #3, Having to collect an item they’ve been told to bring to their test is met with aggression. They huff and sigh and roll their eyes and demand, “WHY?! I NEED THIS FOR THE TEST,” when I ask for it. I assure them they’ll get it back. It’s a multipage document and most of them are not stapled. Clusterfuck to the max. Some people have written all over them, most haven’t. I hand them back, walking around the Us one by one, then go back for extras for those who hadn’t brought any. I start handing back on the same side I handed out the first part of the test, the other side of the classroom moans and groans and says “OH! Well now they are getting more time AGAIN!” Thinking I’m handing out part 2, which I am not. I realize how much they hate me, and realize I’m in a hostile environment and am incredibly outnumbered.

This time, with part 2 of the test, I gave them large chunks of the paper and have them pass it around the room, telling them to not start until I say. You could cut the contempt with a knife.

Problem #4, there’s this one boy (man… whatever) who keeps talking to his neighbors during the test. You know this guy – the one you cringe when he sits next to you, the one who talks to you during class even though you have anything to say to him and you pray that the professor doesn’t think YOU are talking to HIM. Anyways – I have to decide when to go confront him. The first time he talked I was caught off guard and then by the time I thought I should go over and be all “DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE WITH THE WHOLE CLASS?!” the moment had passed. The second time I was helping another student with with their need of extra paper, and only caught the tail end. But the third time! The third time I marched right over to him and asked, “excuse me, do you have a question?” and he said, “no no, I’m fine.” And then I said, “there’s no talking during the test.” And he said, “Oh I was just blahblahblah” because I stopped listening and interrupted him to say, “I don’t care. There is no talking, period.” And then I flexed and my arms broke through the sleeves of my sweater because I am a BADASS.

By the time the test was over I was pretty sure everyone hated me with a fiery passion and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. The thing is, I don’t like when people don’t like me. Especially when I’m doing the best I can, and really have nothing against any of these people. So I was an anxious mess for 3+ hours, and never ever want to do it again. Ah Halloween. I’m more of a fairy princess type-o-gal and not so much the hoard of angry, grumbling, zombie grad students type.

11 thoughts on “Proctoring – A Scary Story”

  1. You poor thing! I would have died. Or cried. Or both. I love that you channeled your inner school-marm!!

    Working at a university, I’m amazed by how so many “adults” act like they need a good spanking and a time-out.
    On the flip side, I also get to deal with a lot of college kids who are awesome and give me hope. But they are out-weighed by the adult doofuses. *sigh*

    1. Thank you for validating how ridiculously uncomfortable it was! I was a little worried that people would be all “YOU BIG WHEENY!” Ya know… cuz a pack of business grad students… on the prowl…. i don’t think they’re making movie out of that. haha

  2. Holy moly. See to me, the scary thing is that I proctor some College Board tests for the uni. I work for, and you have to go through training to do it! If I just grabbed anyone from some random department to do it, I’d get in so much trouble….they didn’t train you or anything, just plopped you down in there with the magical proctor title? Yikes! 🙁 I wouldn’t want to do it again either!

  3. It makes me mad that they sent you in there iwth no training, or really, authority. I mean, if you’d had the ability to take the talking kid’s test and fail him? SO. MUCH. EASIER.

    Also, that they didn’t tell the students what was going to happen in the test. I mean, I’d expect to know if my notes are going to be collected. Sounds like the department failed, all around.

    PS – for the passing out/timing thing? I’m a big fan of the “face down” method … aka, no one flips their paper until you say so, and those that do are docked points/disqualified.

    1. Yes! That’s what I did the second time around. Much easier. But strange to me that these grad students seemed very unclear on how tests roll in general. I’ve always experienced classes that are pretty down with helping out the process vs being ENRAGED by it.

  4. I totally agree with Sarah on all points.

    Also, I know this is going to sound weird but when I was a TA in college dressing as “authority” helped. I would put on my most responsible adult looking outfit. I aimed for librarian/principal, nothing cute. It really helped my authority especially when I was teaching guys who were only a few years younger than I was and much taller than me.

  5. You should do this more often. I love it when you flex your sweater clad arm and become parental to a bunch of snobby business students. And just think… they pay to be there and you got paid to be there. I love it. If I could get paid to control a room full of students all at the same time… I would so be there. Love it, love it, love it. I think that we should call you badass Lauren from now on. Love you tons. DB

  6. Oh man, I get nervous when I proctor state tests because they scare the crap out of us teachers (more in TX than in WA) with threats of losing our jobs if we mess stuff up. The state test people give us specific instructions to read and plenty of training. Sending you in with nothing is bad and wrong.

    As for the authority and people hating me, in a room full of kids I’m great. When adults are being childish however, it still makes me nervous to exert my authority over grown strangers. I am really good at “the look” because I practice it daily, but sometimes adults don’t get it and then you’re just another bitch.

    Proctoring should be lovely – bring a book and expect students to act like adults. So sorry it was awful.

  7. In my last university job, I proctored a few exams every quarter. It’s super uncomfortable and the students will hate you no matter what you do because they are already stressed out from the exam itself. I usually went the super strict hardass route — but then again, I had the department’s authority to dock points or kick students out if they were too disruptive. At least you didn’t have any outright cheaters, those are the worst and most anxiety-inducing!

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