Exams: The Hum of Focused Minds

Exams started this morning, and, as is my wont, I have just made the circuit, checking in at each exam as it is in process. One reason for this practice is to see if there are any problems or if the teachers who are proctoring need anything. Another perhaps is to dignify the occasion by letting students know that I am watching and interested in their performance. Another reason, however, is for the gratification it provides me: I love the hum of young minds at work, facing a challenge, finding solutions, figuring out how to articulate an idea and demonstrate knowledge, making connections as familiar material is put into new contexts. Students hunch over papers, gaze at walls, stretch as they look up and settle back into their thinking. The quiet is encircled with age-old sounds of studiousness, papers turning , urgent erasers rubbing, sighs of concentration. Muslims believe that prayer is exponentially amplified when performed in a group, and an exam in full swing has something of that reverent feel: minds engaged, seeking, reaching out. This morning is the English exam: students are writing essays, defining words, identifying quotes, reflecting on works of literature, explaining their growth. Alicia Hammond, English Department Chair, reminded all students in morning meeting  to be sure they answer the three key questions about literature: What does it say? What does it mean? Why does it matter?

Exam week at Dublin involves a set of rituals that help us wrap up the term. Review allows work and material to gain depth and strength, and new perspectives to form. Review sessions ensure that students get help with material and develop the process of studying. Open library times provide the setting for students to work in groups or alone, to check in with a faculty member for tips or to be quizzed.  Open gym times and practices supplement the studying, and students are encouraged to exercise to maximize their cognitive effectiveness. Morning meeting announcements remind students to get enough sleep, drink water, run around the quad to oxygenate the synapses, showcase silliness and great thoughts. Today Quinn Thompson '17 was singled out for his genius in recognizing that Iago is an idea rather than an individual, the culmination of English 10's Othello challenge. In exam week, we dedicate ourselves to optimizing our students' achievements.