110 Minutes

The number ‘110’ now has new meaning for me. Never again will I be able to say to one of my athletes, “I want you to give me 110%!” Road mileage signs indicating the destination is 110 miles, or even 110 meters, ahead will cause me to detour.

110 now means the number of minutes allocated for the morning testing period in language arts of the state assessment test…three days in a row! It’s like going in for a root canal and being told you’ll need to come back the next day…and then the next day to endure two more!

Someone in some testing universe far, far away from reality came up with 110 minutes as the prime number, the optimum torturing duration.

On Day 2, one of my students suddenly rushed out of the room as he groaned, “I’m going to throw up!”

Me too! But I needed to proctor the test setting and the other students.

What do students who finish a test with a 110 minute time limit, and are told they can’t do anything except read a book and sit quietly, do when they close their laptop 20 minutes into the time period?

They get creative. One student made it his mission to discover how any part of his chair or desk squeaked.And not only that, he also sought to figure out the tone of each squeak, as if he was creating a new musical instrument for an appearance on America’s Got Talent. I’m familiar with jaw harps and washboards. Now I can add a three-legged desk and chair to the list.

Two boys on opposite sides of the classroom played about a hundred-and-ten silent matches of “Rock-Paper-Scissors.”

Four students entered Zombie-land and stared, with blank expressions at…nothing.

Four students adhered to my pleas given each day during the test instructions to read a book. One read a book turned upside down.

One boy picked his nose.

On Day 2, four students had taken my idea of bringing a pillow and lugged them to school. Before the test began, they compared their fluffy head rests, as if it was the Westminster Dog Show…best of class…most puffy…most unique…most likely to produce long periods of comfortable desktop slumber.

On Day 3, the last 30 minutes began to resemble an airport terminal in the midst of flight delays and cancellations, students slumbering in uncomfortable looking positions as they waited for me to say, “The testing session has now ended.”

Each day the words were met with glee and movement that resembled butterflies coming out of their cocoons. I brought out a bag filled with snacks that had been hidden from them until they had crossed the 110 minute finish line. The room was transformed into a party atmosphere. I dropped my stern-looking proctor look and mingled with the masses.

For 13 and 14-year-olds, they did surprisingly well. Other than the desk musician, I didn’t have to give stern looks to anyone.

And at the end of the day, after speaking with my friend, I was thankful I wasn’t proctoring a class of sixth-graders. ‘110 minutes’ with them would seem like an eternity, and they would probably discover a whole new species of squeaks.

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