Yesterday I took the most difficult multiple choice test of my life. Even when the answer is guaranteed to be sitting in front of you, a well-constructed multiple choice test will provide other extremely plausible-seeming answers for the individual who does not know the answer, or is unsure. Suffice it to say, the writers of the Latin PRAXIS have a very good handle on multiple choice question construction. And, while I knew a good number of the answers without needing to sort through the chaff, the answers were often somewhat of a distraction, leading to a minor fit of second-guessing.
This test will determine a great many things about my future–and I am not at all sure how well I did on it. I am confident, at least, that I got enough questions correct that if I have failed, I have done so right at the edge of success. But my weakness in Latin is poetry, and of the five passage-based sections, three were, well, guess what? Poetry. The Vergil passage I think I comprehended better than the other two, and the bit with Helen and Paris I understood better than the one with the Giants raging against Jupiter. But I did a fair amount of educated guessing, especially in the questions that required strong sight vocabulary in addition to knowledge of grammar. And in a couple questions, I flat-out guessed.
On the other hand, I was also able to use the test against itself. The passages provided clues to understanding words I didn’t understand in the straight answer section. One example: a straight-answer question asked for the meaning of the ensiform. I had no clue when I first ran into it, but the Helen/Paris passage had “ensis something something oculos” when talking about Paris’s duel with Menelaus, so I figured (correctly) that it was about stabbing eyes. So, sword-shaped. I also felt very strong about the two prose passages. One was from Cicero’s In Catilinam, which I have read and still remember much of, and the other was from a speech about public speaking by Gaius Gracchus. Again, sight vocabulary was tough, but with less intricate structure, the meanings of words become more apparent. This is the essence of language–using words to shape the meaning of other words–so I must remain positive about my performance.
But with the test over, I can now put it out of my mind and teach with abandon. No need to split my time between studying for the test, planning for my students, and completing my grad school tasks. Now it’s just planning and grad school. I am not foolish enough to think that I have more free time now, but I have a little more time to spend actually doing the worthy things. I am learning to become a more efficient human. Having 90 students depending on my ability to gaze into a crystal ball will do that, I am learning. My dear friend Fox has shown me how effective someone can truly be when necessity forces her into it, raising two children with a loving spouse, full-time work, and continuing her writing. So, I have no excuses, and, frankly, all the time in the world, provided I don’t squander it.