License Exams and Blood Sports

A few months ago, Stick and I went to play games at Bill and Andrea’s house. Andrea had just taken her MTELs in chemistry, and after a few much-needed drinks, she cheerfully insisted to everyone in the room that Denmark and Holland are the same country. I giggled and pointed out that Denmark is the land of Number The Stars and Holland of Hans Brinkle. Those who don’t immediately tie children’s books and geography backed up my facts, but gave Andrea the benefit of the four-drink doubt.

I realized after my exam on Saturday that it wasn’t the martinis that fried her brain. It was the MTELs.

I was told to arrive at 7:45, and when I showed up at 7:46 there was already a line across the parking lot. If you want to teach high school in Massachussetts, you need to get a bachelor’s degree, pass the literacy MTELs and the subject exam in your chosen field, and then get certified as a teacher. So everyone who wants to become a teacher needs to take this exam.

“No cell phones,” one of the security officers said when I made it inside. “Put your bag in the car. No cell phones,”

I blinked. There was nothing in any of my paperwork that said backpacks were illegal, and besides, there’s a woman walking in with a bag right now.

“Thassa purse. No backpacks,” Can you blame me for having an Animal Farm moment? One strap good, two straps bad.

I tried to explain that Stick’s mother had dropped me off on her way to work, so I had no car in which to leave my illicit backpack (I even pointed to “parking is limited at your testing site” on my MTEL assignment letter). Eventually, I was given pained permission to leave my bag with the woman at the table marked “MTELs Bag Check”. It’s a lot like airport security, only once I proved that I wasn’t carrying anything contraband, I didn’t get to board a plane, only get into a new line.

This was the proper-identification line. This line moved even more slowly, with lost-wallet and didn’t-know-you-needed-multiple-IDs stories. I felt a little better about being the non-driving freak. By the time I made it to the front, I reached for my wallet and was waved through. “Good luck on your exam. Next!”

There was a woman who surrended her cell phone in the testing room (“But no one told me I couldn’t have it!” she insisted to an unamused proctor), and a guy who had brought all twenty-eight forms of ID and no pencil.

The literacy portion was surprisingly hard. A lot of spelling questions involving that silly I before E rule. You know the one I mean? I before C, except after C or when sounded like A as in neighbor or sleigh, or from a French loan word in which case all bets are off, take it up with William The Conqueror, kid. But I think I recovered some points with my masterful use of the semicolon.

The English literature section was miserable. You remember the stupid crap we all had to sit through in high school English? This poem exemplifies the themes of romanticism because… Reader-response criticism is important because… It’s hundred questions and two essays on that. Yuck. At least I got out of the exam early (at 4:30 instead of 6 PM), and Stick came to get me.

I think I need to call Andrea and apologize. She just made a minor geography error, but I think in my post-MTELs brain freeze, I agreed to play Blood Bowl with Stick.

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