I wish I could blog in detail about my adventures scoring standardized tests in Kansas City, but I can’t. Instead, I thought I’d share a few snapshots and tidbits from the week.
All in all, it was a really good experience. With thousands of other teachers taking part, I got to meet a lot of colleagues, both those who teach at universities like I do, and those who teach in high schools. I learned a lot about how the high school English programs work and got some interesting perspective from those teachers. Mostly, I really got a broad picture of where high school students are coming from in terms of their writing as they get ready to start college.
On the way to KC, I was an online check-in pro. I logged in to Southwest’s site precisely 24 hours before my flight and got myself into boarding group A, allowing me to snag a sweet, sweet window seat in a row where no one wound up taking the middle seat: my ideal scenario. On the way home, I completely forgot to check in. I guess you can’t win ’em all, right?
We spent each workday (8-5 from Thursday-Wednesday) at the KC Convention Center, which has this lovely little greenspace area right outside the room where our meals were served. After each meal, I went outside to enjoy a little natural light and fresh air before going back in to resume essay scoring. As you can see here, I was not the only one who felt the need to get outdoors whenever I could.
The convention center is right across the street from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which I enjoyed photographing, perhaps excessively. The design reminded me a bit of a Frank Gehry (when I lived briefly in Minneapolis I was right next door to the Weisman Art Museum on campus), but I found out it was in fact designed by Moshe Safdie, so now I have another architect to learn about. Bonus!
On a few different occasions, I observed a crew rappelling down the building and cleaning it, which, well, frankly looks like the exact kind of job I could never do. Nice work, rappelling crew! I’ll just be taking deep, calming breaths over here from a safe distance.
Here are a couple more snaps from right outside the convention center. Sitting out on the lawn and taking in the view was definitely the highlight of my usual work day while I was there.
See? I really took too many photos of the Kauffman center. But isn’t it so pretty?
One of the perks of this test scoring job is that they provide all three meals a day for all the teachers — there’s a huge room in the conference center that gets turned into a cafeteria serving all ~3,000 of us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s fairly impressive. Of course, cafeteria-type food can get old pretty quickly. The salad bar starts to look a little tired; the vat of reconstituted “scrambled” eggs becomes a repulsive necessity for anyone who needs protein at breakfast. Just cast your memory back to your college dorm’s cafeteria and you’ll know what I mean.
Luckily, I have a very sweet friend in town who picked me up one evening and took me out to a great Kansas City BBQ place for the local specialty, burnt ends. I have been online friends with Elsha for a while now, but this was our first time meeting in person — it was so much fun, and just the break I needed from the monotony of work and the cafeteria. If you ever get the chance to meet an online friend when you’re in the same town, I definitely recommend it! But don’t be like us — remember to take a photo of more than just your dinner!
These are burnt ends, if anyone is curious. I had never heard of them before visiting Kansas City. They were pretty great. (Elsha and I? Not pictured. Whoops.)
The hotel I stayed in was the Westin, which was, over all, very nice. I was most appreciative of the soft sheets, multiple down duvets, and approximately 87 pillows. After each day of essay reading/scoring, I found myself tired enough to climb into bed right away, create a cozy nest, catch up on some social media and reading, and fall asleep by 9:30. So the bed was basically the only aspect of the hotel that mattered. It did have this “fancy” indoor waterfall, however, which I think must have been about 2 stories high. If you see the windows near the top of that photo, they look in on the gym, which — ha! — I never once visited.
I feel I have to add, though, that no matter how fancy and pretty this indoor waterfall looks, that it not natural. It is gross, recirculated, stinky water. It smells. Indoor waterfalls: not recommended. So by my 8th morning waking up in the Westin and walking out past that huge waterfall, when I had to hold my breath until I got past the smell, I knew it was a good thing I was heading home. Besides, I missed my husband, my dog, and my cat.
Now that I’m back and recovered from the trip, it’s time to start my second summer job — my five-week summer literature class starts tomorrow. Current status: bracing myself.