There’s a First Time for Everything: I Have Test Anxiety

The going rate for tutoring students in writing using my Ph.D. in rhetoric is 12 bucks an hour. Yep. That’s what I’m worth on the open market. Apparently, the ability to write well is not that valuable.  In fairness, $12 an hour is more than the federal minimum wage, so there’s that. And it beats working at Wal-Mart during December, I guess. The kicker? I have to prove that I’m good enough to do the job. By taking a test. I thought having a Ph.D. meant I was the one who gave the tests.

I am in the middle of taking this test right now. I must demonstrate my ability to provide useful, adequate feedback to students on essays for the going rate of $12 an hour. The test student is named “Ed” and he is a jerk. In his request for assistance he wrote “this assignment is stupid” and the essay he submitted, which had a four page requirement, was less than two pages long. It’s no surprise that the testing facilitators would want to provide a poor student example for their tutor testing, but really: If Ed is typical of the students they have, I am struggling to understand who’s paying for the (admittedly cheap) tutoring and what that mystery benefactor hopes Ed will learn. I am also struggling to understand what the testing agency hopes to learn from my responses to Ed. I suspect it is to see whether or not I will ignore all of Ed’s stupid comments. Also, best sample name they could come up with was “Ed.”

Should I tell Ed he’s a dumbass and will probably fail English? Should I tell Ed that the novel he is analyzing was a satire and his literal interpretation is, shall we say, a bit off the mark? Should I tell Ed his mother/father/guardian/sugar daddy is wasting his/her money on the tutoring service? I am pretty sure this is not what the testers’ expectations are. The problem is, their expectations for the test were not stated. It isn’t clear what they’re looking for in a $12 tutor. Well, except that they want cheap labor.

I am actually really good at tests. I’m good at school generally. It’s why I stayed in for so long. I found it enjoyable—fun even. But this test is not that fun. The problem isn’t with Ed —he’s fictitious—the problem is that the test has not provided any explanation of the level of feedback they want me to give. There isn’t any information on how much a tutor would know about the student, the class, or the specific assignment. I don’t even know if Ed is in high school or if he’s actually a college student. Can I tell Ed to ask his instructor for clarification on some of his questions? If I was Ed’s instructor, I would give him a disappointed frowning face and tell him to look at the syllabus. Also, Ed needs a dictionary. No, the problem isn't Ed; the problem is the test. Which I should probably finish taking.

[Pause for musical interlude. Imagine the acoustic version of “Monday, Monday” is playing.]

I think I blew it. I did adequate prep for part one but it turns out there was a part two that I was not aware of. Ed had a classmate, Ellie. Ellie is a much better student than Ed but I was sick of the test by that point and basically told her to “fix the errors” because that’s helpful feedback. I’m done with these students already this semester and they’re completely made up. I wonder how closely the test mimics the actual job. The real reason I’ve felt so anxious about this test is because I’m worried I might succeed. What if they actually offer me the job? That’s a terrifying thought.

In summation, $12 an hour hardly seems worth all the test anxiety I just endured. I will probably never get my student loans paid off. I wonder if Wal-Mart has a tutoring department.