My school years were filled with plenty of stomach-churning opportunities. As the years went by and my engagement with the public educative system – and the accompanying social structure of the said system evolved — the specific impetuses for abdominal discomfort changed accordingly.
Alas, one thing never did change. Taking tests.
I’d venture to guess I was not alone in this category of pupildom. While not unique, when it came to be test time, I fully owned my anxiety.
The experts say a little bit of anxiety can be helpful when it gets to be time for a final exam or a pop-quiz. But if it is too much, it can get in the way of performing well.
I reached the grades at school when all of the serious tests were those standardized ones that you needed to fill in little ovals with a #2 pencil. I would start off fine, knowing I had the first four answers correct but then I would notice, to my horror, that each of my suspected correct responses were ‘A’s’. My sensibility in the area of probability told me there was no way that the next one could be ‘A’ even though I was more sure than ever that ‘A’ was the correct answer to question 5.
What to do? I had to go back and reread all the questions since doubt was cast on all of my previous answers. Of course, you will recall, that most of these tests were timed. Yet another source of anxiety.
The clock on the wall was ticking. Time was running out.
Another expert said that if you don’t know the answer, mark something down because if you don’t answer you for sure will get it wrong. The same applies if you are out of time.
Each exam got to the point where I was out of time. Without having any idea then that I would be an artist and a graphic designer, I felt an irresistible urge to arrange my guesses so they were appealing to my aesthetic sense.
…maybe that’s enough of a look at me a shell-shocked schoolboy.
Now that I have reached a certain station in life, tests and testing have taken on a new and healthy part of my practice and life.
As an artist, the concept of ‘study’ is essential — as essential as studying for a test. And testing out ideas for me now in paint, without any intention to create a finished piece of art is essential, and a powerful personal exercise.
Not all students are fully synced up with the way schools teach, but at some point, some half a century later I do see the wisdom.
And while I have traded in my #2 for an HB, I really don’t really ever want to have to keep an eye on the clock.