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“Finals are coming up,” lamented my high-schooler. “I don’t do well on tests, you know.”
We were driving home from school when she expressed her test-taking anxiety. I began telling her she should do her best, that everyone gets nervous taking tests, and if she studied she would have nothing to worry about.
But Daughter No. 1 interrupted me. “I remember last year’s lit test. There was an essay asking us to give the characteristics of a sonnet. So I said, ‘It rhymes with bonnet, and it rhymes with net.’
I almost rear-ended the car in front of me, so blown was my mind.
“You actually wrote that a sonnet rhymes with ‘bonnet?”
She giggled in that “gee, I wish I hadn’t said that aloud” sort of way. “Well... yeah.”
“ It rhymes with bonnet?” I squeaked. “Where did you get ‘bonnet’ from? You don’t even own a bonnet!”
“I did! Remember when we went to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house? You bought me a bonnet-”
“Don’t distract me,” I said, and then ranted about the fact that she had insulted English teachers everywhere with her “rhymes with bonnet” response.
“It was a hard class, Mom-” she began. I interrupted. “It was a sonnet!”
She shrugged. “What can I say? I panicked.”
OK, that I understood.
Flashback to seventh-grade science class, circa 1981. I was 12 and daydreaming of my upcoming nuptials with John Schneider of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” despite our vast age difference, and science was the last thing I was thinking about. The class could have been taught in Latin and my level of comprehension would have been the same.
There was a pop quiz, and I don’t remember what we were studying. It could have been the properties of matter, photosynthesis or phases of matter. I am absolutely sure, however, that the answer to the first test question was not “supersonic.” I didn’t know what that even was. I still don’t, actually. But I was desperate and I saw a long shot and went for it. After all, “supersonic” had something to do with science, didn’t it?
When Mr. Mueller walked around the room to collect the test papers, I kept my eyes on my desk. When he swept up my paper, he threw back his head and cackled. Then he amused himself for the rest of the class period by making rocket ship noises every time he caught my eye. He even made rocket-launching hand motions to go with his “Whoooooosh”ing.
Every kid has had a “supersonic” moment. My friend Rebecca recalled hers: “I was taking a test on the first act of ‘Othello,’” she said. “One of the questions was ‘How old is Iago?’ I had no idea, so I wrote, ‘Old enough to know better.’”
Sometimes kids don’t even get to the test part before they turn into comedians. School District 197 teacher Dann Hurlbert said, “Generally, tests have a place to write your name and date on the top. A student wrote her name and when she got to the ‘date’ line, she wrote, ‘No, thank you!’”
Obviously, kids are getting even more creative with their smart-alecky, I-hope-my-witty-remarks-can-save-me responses to test questions.
If you do an Internet search, you will discover a bounty of unusual test question responses, such as the kid who drew a bear on his test paper and said they couldn’t answer the question because there was a bear in the way. (I hope that kid at least got a bit of extra credit for that response.)
Just Google “inappropriate test responses from children” and prepare to shake your head and maybe even laugh a little. Because you’ve been there. We’ve all gone supersonic at some point in our lives.
Heather Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.