IB Exams Mark an End

The school is silent. It’s Friday afternoon and nearly everyone has emptied out of the building.  However, my IB students are sitting the second of their three biology exams. Their first one was written earlier in the afternoon.

We’ve worked together for two years to get to this point.  They all successfully completed their internal assessments.  They’ve learned the content.  Practice tests, review sessions, and more practice questions have led them up to this point.  I wonder if the nervousness I feel is similar to theirs.

My classes have continued all day but when my IB students entered the exam room my mind and thoughts were with them.  Will they remember the details?  Did they review the areas that they are weak in?  Did they secure their strengths? 

What will the focus on the exams be?  Will they need to recall the specifics of osmoregulation, respiration, heart function, or something altogether different? Will they understand the questions?  Will they pay attention to the command terms?  Will they read the questions?  I’m a bundle of nerves. 

I hope I haven’t failed them in any areas. Will I read through the questions next week and find one or more that causes me to think, “Oh no, they won’t have been able to answer that one”?

My last class for the afternoon departs.  There’s still an hour before the first students will be done.  My web sites are updated.  Programs for the science fair are printed and folded. Our choir practice for the graduation is a welcomed distraction.  Immediately following the practice, I hurry upstairs and linger in the hallway, anticipating my students’ emergence from the exam room.

My seniors - last year doing a catalase enzyme lab.  I will miss them!

Slowly they trickle out.  One is in tears.  Another grins claiming, “That was easy”.  Surely the reality is somewhere in between these two extremes: I doubt the exam was truly tear-worthy but I also question its “easiness”.  Of course I grill them for details, details we can’t share  beyond the walls of our school for another 24 hours.  They just wrote extended responses but struggle to recall what the questions were.  Together, however, they recollect several specifics.  While I cringe internally at some, there are no surprises.  It seems some of their answers were sketchy while others might have been complete. 

The exam questions will make it to my desk next week and I will pour over them answering them for myself simultaneously attempting to guess how my students would have answered the same questions.  However, I’ll still have to wait until the heat of summer for the results.  Then we’ll know the Biology scores for each student plus the results for all of their subject areas.  And, of course, whether they earned the coveted IB diploma.

How I hope they each succeed.  However, in the end, I know I’ve done all I can possibly do to help them in their aspiration for the Biology portion.  And, I know they’ve all done the best they are capable of given their study habits, dedication over the two years, test taking skills, and inherent interest in their subject areas. I can’t ask for more. 

Last year  doing the lab.

On Monday they will sit the last exam for Biology.  I will repeat the above nervous anticipation of hearing their experience in the exam.  Then, our time together is over and we wait until July. 

The IB exams mark an end.  An end I’m excited to see arrive but also sad to see go.  It means I won’t teach this particular group of students together ever again.  They’ll honestly all be missed and will forever, as past students do, hold a special place in my heart.  I hope they’ll keep in touch and let me know where life takes them.  It is sincerely my wish for them to have successful and happy lives. 

This time of year, certainly in education, marks many ends.  End of the school year.  End of a grade.  The end of elementary, middle, high school, college, university, or graduate school.  But in every case, the end marks also the beginning of a new phase of life.   Cheers to all seniors everywhere in the middle of exams!