At the risk of inventing history, I’m going to say that my first experience with the SAT was in 1991. I was 9 years old. It was a Saturday.
No, I didn’t take the test that day. Rather, I watched an episode of the old show “Saved by the Bell” in which Zack and Kelly and the gang take the test themselves. Zack manages a near perfect score while staring at a pretty girl the whole time. Screech stashes a lucky goldfish in his pocket. Jessie is rocking a denim and leopard-print shirt. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, consult this video for a fascinating glance at the epoch known as the late 20th century.
Fast forward 25 years and I’m a 33-year-old media coordinator at Duke TIP. (Insert obvious joke about how if you’re reading this blog “fast forward” is probably an ancient term). Like Matt, I have a Ph.D. Like Matt, I never got a perfect score on the SAT. Unlike Matt, I don’t have any research to back up my thoughts here. And unlike Matt, I’m not going to subject myself to taking the test ever again.
However, what I did subject myself to recently was working as an SAT/ACT instructor and tutor for one of those giant test prep companies that has no affiliation with Princeton University. I could try to pen some sophisticated language about the experience. Instead, though, ….
It’s LISTICLE time!:
First 6 things that pop into my head when I think about my time as an SAT tutor:
- For some reason, the classes I taught were held in a rented room at a non-profit agency whose mission is to provide employment opportunities for young men and women with developmental disabilities. Perspective.
- I’m happy to report that I came a lot closer to shedding tears in that classroom than any of my students did. That’s the way it should be; I have graying hair and a mortgage. Please do not let the SAT intimidate you.
- I tutored one pair of twins and one set of triplets. Coincidentally, both families had dogs that liked to jump in my lap. I have absolutely nothing of substance to add on the matter.
- Students in several different classes said, of their own volition, that they thought preparing for the SAT was making them dumber. Having this opinion – or at least considering it as a possibility – is a lot like taking the SAT itself: everyone has to do it eventually, but it’s over in the blink of an eye.
- I wasn’t really supposed to deviate from the script too much, but one thing I insisted on saying to all my students – and I still believe it – is this: specific strategies for specific question types might be important, but simply learning the structure of the test will improve your score more than anything.
- Whenever I was tutoring someone in his/her living room or kitchen and a younger sibling strolled by all footloose and fancy-free, I always thought of the opening lines of that classic poem:
Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you might be the next to die.