The final day of the 2017-2018 school year was over. I placed the plants from my classroom in the backseat of my car and reflected on school year number 23 as I headed home for the summer. After unpacking the car, I slept for 24 hours straight, a tradition that is now far more appealing to me than going out for a drink on the last day of school. The next morning, I did what many teachers do: I planned out my summer.
After updating my calendar with professional developments, curriculum planning time, and a possible week long working vacation to Denver, Colorado, I settled down with my Chromebook and a hot cup of coffee, and I started looking at the Google Level 1 Certification Test requirements, the first task on my summer list.
There were lots of reasons that I wanted to pass this test. First of all, after 23 years in education, I know that staying up to date is essential. Bottom line: Either “get Googleized or get retired.” Additionally, each grade level English teacher at our school had just received a set of Chromebooks as part of our school’s 1:1 initiative to become more digitized. If I could pass this test, it would show the district I was a good steward of their generosity. Additionally, the district was willing to reimburse me the testing fee and offered to give me a really nice Chromebook to use in my classroom upon successful completion of the test . Finally, an 80% or higher score would earn me a Google virtual badge which I could affix to to my email signature that would show anyone who cared I was officially a certified Level 1 Google educator. This would strengthen my credibility as a presenter at any conference I presented at in the future.
Although I have always been a good student and usually do well on tests, I am aware that technology is not my strong suit. I have to work at it. Believe it or not, I have never owned an IPod, and for years, I was that teacher who didn’t text due to my cell phone’s antiquity. Over the last five or six years, however, I have improved because I started including summer technology conferences in my summer plans, and they have made a huge difference in my comfort level with technology. I love the way technology simplifies grading and engages students if used correctly. After using Google Suites tools this year, my most frequent post on Facebook and Twitter was “Have I told you how much I love Google?”
I went to the Google Test Training Center and quickly surveyed the 13 units I needed to work through and realized that passing this test would take more study time than I had originally planned, so I adjusted my summer calendar accordingly. I also found a series of YouTube videos called Google Educator Test Prep and decided to watch them as well. After two or three weeks of non-stop studying and practicing (I am rather obsessive when I focus on a goal), I signed up for the test and paid my $10.00. Google responded telling me my testing ID had been set up, and the test would be available for the next 48 hours.
As I started the the test that Saturday, the first section seemed easy; however, all that changed as I started working on the tasks, exercises designed to test your ability to use each Google Suite tool effectively. Then, my computer froze up while working on the first task. Luckily, I was able to return to my test, but not after losing access to the test and my sanity for 10 valuable minutes. I ran out of time before finishing the test. Exhausted and defeated, I waited for my final score. I knew I had failed but didn’t know by how much. I hoped I had at least earned a 70%. That turned out to be wishful thinking. The results appeared on the screen in front of me.
Your score: 59%
I was stunned. I knew I hadn’t reached the required 80% mark, but 59%? How could I be that far off the mark? After some heavy sighing, I finally accepted the grade and scanned the rest of the message. It said I could retake the test in two weeks. Fine, I thought, I have a technology conference next Tuesday, so I will go to the session on passing the Google Level 1 Certification Test, and I will review units 4, 7, and 10 just as the comments suggest. I decided this was a small bump in the road. It would cost me another $10.00, but that would only make victory sweeter when I passed.
For the next two weeks, I reviewed all 13 units again, especially the top three areas the Google evaluators specifically recommended. I even made classroom lessons that used those Google tools. When I felt I was ready, I paid another $10.00 and awaited the arrival of my confirmation e-mail. I can do this, I thought. A day later the email arrived, and I decided to take the test that Sunday after church. The next day, I prayed for a little divine intervention and clicked on “Start the test.”
This time, everything went smoothly. Answers that had tripped me up the first time came easily. I knew what to do on most of the tasks, and I also knew that I could bypass any task giving me trouble and return to it later, something I hadn’t realized the first time I took it. My keystrokes were quicker, and I was actually enjoying myself in my own nerdy kind of way. Then it happened again…
My computer crashed with only 30 minutes remaining. This happened before. Just restart the computer, I thought to myself. It will be OK. As I awaited for my Chromebook to reboot, I tried to remember how many tasks I had completed. When the test came back up, I saw that 10 minutes or so had elapsed. Once again, I felt the tension building. Up to this point, I had been far more confident. With only 20 minutes remaining, I raced to finish. But, once again, my three hours ran out before all tasks were completed. I stared at the screen and again awaited my results. Maybe the work I did will be enough for an 80%, I thought. Moments later, the screen told me the answer:
Your score: 72.0%
My shoulders sagged in defeat and that was followed by a flash of anger and another string of ugly words. I shook my head in disbelief and thought Why can’t I get this test finished? Why can’t I remember which command to complete for each step in the Google applications? What don’t I understand? I felt dumb. Hadn’t the presenter who had given the Google Level 1 Certification class at the technology conference a week ago said anyone could past this test the second time around? Apparently, I was really dumb.
It was at that moment a student’s face came to mind. This girl always did her homework. She always paid attention. She always tried to understand the reading assignments. Yet, she had experienced the exact same thing that I was now experiencing. She had repeatedly failed my tests. Her frustration must have been excruciating. Other students who experience this type of failure often give up long before entering my 7th grade classroom. But not Cathy. She was different. She had persevered.
Unlike Cathy, after only two unsuccessful attempts, I was ready to give up. My compassion for her and all the other students who struggle welled up inside. Every day had been a struggle for Cathy; yet, time after time, she shook it off and tried again. I am ashamed to admit it, but there were some days I grew frustrated with Cathy. Now, I am filled with admiration! She came in every day with a smile, and tried again. What a strong young lady!
As I think about my attempts to encourage students who fail in my class, I know I have to follow my own advice. Instead of giving up, I have recognized the growth between test #1 and test #2 and celebrated that growth. I am spending time studying each specific Google Suite tool separately so I feel more comfortable with each one. I have set up tutoring sessions with friends whose technology skills seem second nature. I will take the test a third time in September when I am once again allowed to pay another $10.00 and sit down to the three hour test. I will do this for Cathy and every single student like her. I will try again. I will not give up.
This summer’s technology experience yielded far more learning than a test score will ever reveal. It allowed me to step into my students’ shoes for just a moment and better understand their struggles. Because I can now relate to their struggles, I think I will be a far more compassionate teacher. I will share this story with my future students so they know I have been in their shoes. I never thought I would be so grateful for twice failing a test, but I am. Who knew failure could yield so much success?