Gothic Gombel

I gave my first test of the year this past Friday. For the last two weeks, one of my classes has studied the art and culture of the Middle Ages.

The first week I introduced major social roles and gave them worksheets that described – in simple language – Kings, Noble(wo)men, Knights, Bishops, Priests, Friars, Monks/ Nuns, Serfs, Servants, Minstrels, and Merchants. I had them complete “fill in the blank” worksheets to help them learn these roles. We did creative writing exercises.

The second week we talked about Gothic Architecture. Again, I gave them many, many handouts and had them do “matching” exercises to learn that Gothic Architecture is marked by (1) tall, sweeping designs, (2) flying buttresses, (3) vaulted ceilings, (4) pointed arches, (5) light, open, and airy interiors, (6) gargoyles, and (7) an emphasis on decor. We viewed a ton of slides and sketched our own features.

The night before the test, I purchased folders for each of the students, put stickers with their names on them, and put their worksheets inside. I provided these folders for the exams.

I took each and every question on the test AS A DIRECT QUOTE from their worksheets which they had in front of them.

This is what I got back.


I’d say about a quarter of the tests I got back were left blank on the backside despite numerous reminders that they needed to complete both sides of the exam.

A shocking lack of understanding of basic geography.

An inability to cross-reference with answers in front of you.

Interesting, oftentimes comical grammar. Please also note that one student thought “The Middle Ages” was the country in which Notre Dame de Paris was located.

Creative spelling.

This. Is. Depressing.

The average test score was 59%.

I am not mad at my students. Yeah, they did some pretty silly stuff on their tests, but when you look more closely, this is obviously my fault. I’m their teacher. I should have taught them better. But I only see them 40 minutes a day and… and… and… who do I point the finger at now? I mean, for pete’s sake, finger-pointing seems to be all the rage in the education debate these days, so clearly I need to point at someone else and scream “not it! not it! not it!” at the top of my lungs. This isn’t fair. These kids are passing through the public school system and despite their teachers’ best efforts… they aren’t learning anything.

Do we blame then? The education system? The federal, state, and local mandates? The district? The curriculum advisers? The school administration? The faculty? The parents? The students themselves? Or do we look elsewhere? TV and the internet? Hollywood? Video games? Popular culture? Ugh.

Frankly, I’m feeling pretty depressed about this whole thing. Clearly this problem is far, far over my head and out of my hands. I’m discouraged by the lack of care people have for education and especially for my Fine Arts classes. I feel so terrible for my students who are struggling and misinformed and not getting a stellar education. I wish I could make it different. I am trying. We are all trying. But it doesn’t seem like it’s making a difference.

 And I sort of want to scream “NOT IT” and quit.

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One thought on “Gothic Gombel

  1. I’d feel depressed too. Did *anyone* get a decent grade? I can recall being in various classes,nailing them but the vast bulk of the class failing miserably. I would doubt that it was the teacher or that would mean no one could do well,not even me being “gifted”. It seemed to be no more than the children being told that “x” class doesn’t matter by their parents and by society. And they can get away with this because there are essentially no carrots or sticks anymore, IMO. As for the spelling, it seems that the teachers before you failed you and the students. The kids should never have been sent to the next grade with such an appalling lack of skills, no matter how much the parents or child whined.

    I went through public schools. They do have their problems, but the problems will be so much worse if charter schools and religious schools bleed them dry of funding, and leave all of the less than perfect students behind. This is why education should be one of the most important things to a country; we are creating our own very long term problems by ignoring it.

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