Monday, October 09, 2006

Ode to a Grecian Midterm

I just had what I consider a lot of fun. Yes, I'm the kind of guy who loves to take academic tests. I like to study for them and then I like the challenge of organizing that knowledge and reproducing it in some form or another. Maybe it's an adrenalin high I get from just, once again putting my skills and abilities "on the line" Call me weird or nerdish but I just dig it.

Obviously I haven't had an opportunity to take "Midterms" or any kind of "Terms" for quite some time. Oh, I've made/created tests for my students on an Elementary level. I took a class at U.S.C. on how to construct a multiple-choice exam with 3 out of four "distractors". But it has been many a year, maybe 15, since I actually took a college level exam myself. I didn't quite enjoy the ones I took at U.C. Riverside in Math and Science when I was getting my Supplementary Credentials to teach the same at the Jr. Hi. but I did enjoy the essay parts and the chances to express my "opinions" in writing. I've had some pretty scary Real Estate Credentialing exams but they were all very objective and I just saved the math questions until last and made my best guess. This time I went into my recent (this last two weeks) midterms (one was billed as a quiz) with confidence having had nothing better to do than study non-stop for them. Yes, I was confident and I loved the subject matter. That helps alot.

My first test was last Wednesday. It was in Music Theory I. My professor was almost apologetic about the whole thing. He has been challenged by a small group with a wide range of knowledge/experience or lack thereof in the subject. He has been very available and helpful in explaining the concepts and he even allowed us to use our notes. I had excellent "notes" and learning "devices". Being a teacher, I really knew how to make them. ie. rings of flash cards, cassette tapes of ear-training CD's to replay with my piano etc. I felt I had learned alot and I wanted an opportunity to prove it. Haste makes waste...I plunged in too quickly and got the first key signature wrong. I didn't follow the handy "BEADGCF" guide that he had pushed. I had my own cards that I had printed from an online program called "Finale" with color-coding for Major and minor, punches for #'s of sharps or did me in. I did fine on the triad building and intervals and the ear-training parts. I even survived the chord progression analysis and the perfect tonic ending. I got an 84% which, I guess, wasn't too bad considering his later remarks about the range of grades. Best of all, I got to network and help a fellow student, Victor, who is only 22 and a "pre-med" student. We worked on the differences between hearing a minor and a diminished chord and a major and an augmented one. Hopefully we helped each other.

Now the test I just took was another matter. Art History has always been something I wanted to take, especially since we have started to travel to places ie. The Acropolis, Pompeii, Santorini, the Vatican,etc. and I wanted to know more about all the wonderful Art, Sculptures, Mosaics, buildings, ruins etc. This time I was one of a large lecture class (60 +-) Totally different approach in teaching and exam prep. My professor is/was very organized graphically with a detailed syllabus, warning dates, study guides, etc. She even had an "extra credit" interactive prep game that got most of the class involved and realizing what kind of a test it was going to be. It was "something" I would've done when I taught to get kids interested and prepared. This time there was redundant warning about "cheating" and what constitutes it in such a large class. I was almost "paranoid" about where to look or not as I began to take the test. As it turned out, I had prepared well and didn't have to "scratch my head" or look up or down to think. I felt I knew most, if not all, of the objective/multiple choice and fill-in-the blanks part. I had made two set of flash cards by scanning and color printing all the works of Art and a shorthand version with just titles and dates and periods. They were tucked away in my backpack out of reach. I had exhaustively looked up and verified all the terms she proposed in my notes and the book. I had done a Franklin T prep on the proposed essay comparison questions. That was the part I enjoyed the most. I had an "intro" "a body of facts" and "a conclusion". My handwriting/printing was pretty bad/rusty. I hoped she could read it. Too bad the essay only counted for 16 of the 100 pts. That's where you show if you really understand the significance of the Art in History and culture. I tried to tie in the "provenance" of the two pieces above. The one on the left is the massive Geometric Krater from Ancient Greece, precursor to the "Grecian Urn/Amphora" of the Three Revelers" on the right. They show the progress that was made in the Art of Ceramic Painting over the years. I felt especially atuned to that assignment since my oldest son, Clark, took a Masters in Ceramics from the U. of Colo. and still "throws" a few pots for sale every year. He is "into" glazes/slips and firings big time. I felt like I was "at one" with this part of the exam and I tried to express it. It was quite a "Midterm" and I'm now looking forward to my trip to a local museum, both real and online for our "paper" that's due in one month. Good Luck! Bob!


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