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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting for "The Call"

My environmental law exam is set to start in a few minutes, and so I've come to the office early to sit here and wait for "the call."  By "the call," of course, I mean the hypothetical call from the registrar or someone else that I could conceivably receive sometime during the next three hours informing me that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong on my exam.  For example, I don't know, something like the plaintiff's name keeps changing and so the students can't tell who I'm talking about in the second paragraph, or maybe there's a sentence missing or a page missing or it says there are three questions but there are only two or I don't have any idea what else "the call" might be about.  I should say that in eight years of teaching and stressing out over whether I'm going to get "the call," I have never actually gotten "the call," but this doesn't mean that I'm still not freaking out and hoping that I don't get it this time around (in this way, it's sort of how I still really worry every single class session that I'm going to run out of material to talk about with 45 minutes left in the class, even though in probably 600 class sessions it's never happened a single time).

More generally, I should say that I find this whole time around exams very stressful.  I'm sure many other prawfs feel the same.  The whole building is filled with stressed out people; the students who I like so much are going through all this stress and anguish; I'm worried that I'm going to get "the call."  I find that I even have dreams in which I realize I've changed the plaintiff's name and so the students can't tell who I'm talking about in the second paragraph, or even more outlandish scenarios like I've asked a long question about church-state law on my environmental law exam or maybe even accidentally written one of the questions in a foreign language.  I guess I should take solace in the fact that while I'm having these particular kinds of anxiety dreams, at least I'm not having my typical anxiety dreams, which often involve sitting in one of my colleague's classes as a student having not done the reading and hoping I don't get called on, or, as has been happening ever since Obama was elected, sitting in his classroom as a student having not done the reading and hoping I don't get called on.  Incidentally, I'll just mention that a couple of weeks ago, while having one of these Obama-is-my-Professor anxiety dreams, he did actually call on me.  He asked me: "What is the second most prevalent reason that people object to the Star Spangled Banner?"  I answered: "Because it interrupts the game?"  And he said: "Not the game.  A book."  I don't know what that meant.  I guess I should be happy that I at least was able to croak out some answer, especially because when he called on me he called me "Jason Wiebe."  I responded: "Me?  I'm Jay Wexler."  He responded, "yeah, you."

Anyone else stressed about getting "the call" or have any fun or horrible "the call" stories they'd care to share?

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 16, 2009 at 09:32 AM | Permalink


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Professors should proctor their own exams.

Posted by: Anonycommenter | Dec 17, 2009 5:19:07 PM

Tim -- I think your assumption is incorrect: you'd still get a pretty nice curve!

Posted by: Vladimir | Dec 16, 2009 11:58:23 PM

My recurring nightmare is discovering that I somehow attached model answers to the end of the exam, blowing any chance of a natural curve.

Posted by: Tim Zinnecker | Dec 16, 2009 8:02:21 PM

With regard question three, is "environmental ass" a term of art? And why does question six have "[insert correct figures]" in it? And what's a potato responsible party?

Posted by: Dave Hardy | Dec 16, 2009 8:01:01 PM

A colleague at another school told me his "call" story. On the last of three questions, the students had to make a present value computation, but he had forgotten to put the interest rate in the question. He didn't get "the call" until 15 minutes before the end of the exam, when one of the students brought this to the proctor's attention. By this point, only about four or five (out of maybe 70 or 80) students were still taking the exam, so most had left without saying anything. Several had simply put in their own interest rate and proceeded along just fine, but a majority had failed to realize that you can't calculate PV without an interest rate! Their numbers were, apparently... interesting.

Posted by: Oops! | Dec 16, 2009 5:29:00 PM

No cell phone? But how do you distract yourself when driving?

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2009 3:24:24 PM

Just a quick update: I didn't get the call!

Anonymous: I don't have a cell phone. I hear, however, that they are convenient.

Posted by: Jay Wexler | Dec 16, 2009 2:07:40 PM

With the invention of the cell phone, you could be shopping (or sleeping) while waiting for "the call."

Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 16, 2009 2:05:14 PM

With the invention of the cell phone, you could be shopping (or sleeping) while waiting for "the call."

Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 16, 2009 2:04:37 PM

In my second year of teaching, my exam time coincided with a long faculty meeting. So I'm sitting in the meeting trying very, very hard to stay awake during the Dean's "strategic plan" presentation -- when guess who walks in? Yep, the registrar. He scans the room. The Dean pauses. And then the registrar lifts his right hand and points -- to the distinguished senior person sitting next to me, who quickly scampers out of the room to deal with her exam problem. I lost a year of life from that scare, I suspect.

Posted by: Vladimir | Dec 16, 2009 1:49:43 PM

I've only experienced "the call" from the perspective of a student. On my civil procedure final, the exam was riddled with errors. Every 10 minutes or so, someone would find an error, bring it to the attention of the proctor, the proctor would text the head proctor, who would call the professor, return with the answer, and interrupt us to announce the change. I think in all, for a 3 hour exam, we had 6 or 7 of those interruptions. It was enough to completely throw off everyone's train of thought. For one question, I had to erase my answer and start over once I found out about the change.

Posted by: Anonymous 2L | Dec 16, 2009 9:39:49 AM

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