I'm a middle school guidance counselor, and one of the hats I wear at work is school testing coordinator. For the past couple of years, this has meant that I'm responsible for all the preparations, training, scheduling, and administering of our state tests, which are given near the end of the school year. We test every student in grades six through eight in reading, math and history, and 8th graders are also tested in science and writing. In my school that means approximately 2500 tests are administered every year, with 2300 of those administered within a three-week period.
This past school year, we administered our state tests online for the first time. That meant hours and hours of additional advance preparation for me. Our school has enough computers to test about 200 students at a time, so I had to come up with a testing schedule which would run all the students through all the tests they needed to take during that three-week testing window. I had to assign students to testing groups (first on paper, and then in online test sessions), ensure that special ed students' accommodations were provided, train teachers, and run simulations. I had to provide practice sessions for every teacher and every student, in order to familiarize them with online testing tools and help both groups increase their level of comfort with the online testing format. I came early to work every test day to ensure that computers were both turned on and logged on, and had to start and monitor each online testing group from my desktop computer.
Although the tests are untimed, a typical student spends roughly two hours working on a test. For that student, and for the teacher who proctors the test, it is all over relatively quickly. But that two-hour test represents hours and hours of preparation on my part.
I'm not looking for acknowledgement of my effort. I could just as easily be focusing on all the work a teacher does to prepare a student to take such a test. But reflecting on this rather ordinary part of my job has given me pause. This is what I've been thinking about: What do I take for granted that has taken someone else hours and hours of preparation so that I might enjoy/participate/consume/view/wear/listen/read.....?
I'm hoping that while I'm up here enjoying the tip of any particular iceberg, that I'll be more aware of what others have done "below the water line" to make it happen, and that I'll look harder for ways to express my gratitude and appreciation. And I invite you to join me.