Thursday, February 21, 2008

act prep prep

So yesterday, my colleague Nicole and I went to an ACT Convention in Madison, and guess what. I brought a pen! Here's how it went down:

7:45...I arrive at Nicole's house in Janesville. She's driving because her husband works at a car dealership and I drive a 2000 Toyota Corolla. We don't have directions to the hotel, so I'm concerned, but apparently I'm a caveman--we have OnStar. This is my first experience with OnStar, and it's very exciting. Before the day is over, we will have used it 4 times.

8:30...We pull up to the Sheraton and head inside. Incidentally, it's chilly. This morning, I actually heard a guy on the radio say, "It won't be as cold tonight. You can expect a low of 4." 4! That's what we get excited about here in the Midwest now.

8:35...There's a continental breakfast, but we're not hungry. Nicole stands in line for coffee for 5 minutes while I find us a seat in front of a coffee machine with no line. I should probably have let her in on that.

8:45...Joining us at the table today: Mary Ellen McCormick-Mervis. If you think you should recognize that name, you shouldn't. I just thought it was funny. There's some other lady here too.

8:55...When asked what UW-Madison looks for, an admissions counselor in the crowd says, "High-ability students." You don't say.

9:00...We have some time to kill. I'm reading The Inner Game of Tennis, about which you should definitely be expecting a blog when I finish it. Nicole is reading Alive. So far, this conference is money well spent.

9:30...The guy who's introducing the keynote speaker says, "Paul Weeks certainly doesn't need an introduction to this crowd." I think he does. Anyway, it turns out that he used to work at Ripon--Sara remembers him as being nice. However, he now works for the ACT, which she loathes, so I wonder how she reconciles those two emotions. Anyway, here are some of the interesting things about his address:

1. He refers to the "Wisconsin mafia." Does anyone know what this means?
2. He begins by saying, "It wouldn't be a Paul Weeks presentation if I didn't give Carlos Garces a prize." I'll say.
3. He passes out instant lottery tickets to people who answer questions. Nice.
4. He claims that ACT (the corporation) is "so much more than the test." He never convinces me that this is true.

9:40...Here are four questions to ask yourself if you're wondering whether you're disturbing the people around you: 1) Are you moving the table a lot? 2) Are you making more noise than anyone else around you? 3) Are you taking up more than your fair share of the table? 4) Are a lot of the people sitting near you looking at you a lot? Mary Ellen McCormick-Mervis, you should commit that list to memory.

9:50...The line of the morning comes when Paul is explaining that monitoring without intervention isn't helpful: "Weighin' the hog don't make it fatter." Nice.

9:55...Did you know that all students in Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan have to take the ACT? It's true.

9:56...Speaking of Colorado, we're looking at a map right now, and it's always farther south that I remember. Always.

10:20...Heading into our first break-out session, I see a lot of people on cell phones, and it becomes clear that everyone in the world has a nicer cell phone than I do. I feel like I'm carrying around a Zach Morris model circa 1992.

10:30...Andy, who was supposed to present about designing your own ACT prep course, is mysteriously absent. Over the next hour, we will be told that he is sick, that he has a sickness in the family, and that he's gone for personal reasons. We will also be told that he notified them as late as Tuesday night and as early as Friday. If no one sees Andy by the end of the week, we should make a phone call. Anyway, Patricia is stepping up.

10:45...Okay, so clearly Patricia knows what she's doing. We should just hire her. She talks a lot about the course she organizes through UW-Milwaukee. Some interesting sidenotes:

1. Roughly 75% of her students see improvement. I'm not a violent person, but Charlie would get a beating if I paid $175 for an ACT prep course and he didn't improve.
2. This guy says something about getting out of the course as much as you can, and I thought of a cool line to use at the beginning: "Your job is to get out of this course as much as you can get out of this course. Otherwise, get out of this course." That'd scare the little punks.

11:30...The session is over--it was genuinely helpful, I think--and we're headed out for lunch. We decide on a Mexican place called El Pastor (which means "the pastor"). We both go with the chicken burrito. Nicole gets the medium and I get the large. There is no small, which begs the question, why not call the medium "small"? Doesn't medium mean it's in the middle? It can't be in the middle if there are only two sizes. Anyway, neither one of us finishes what we got. But they were excellent. If you are away from home and don't know the local cuisine, a sit-down Mexican restaurant is your best bet.

This blog entry is getting long, and nothing interesting happened in the afternoon. (Whether anything interesting happened in the morning is up to you to decide.) Anyway, I would say that this was a useful day. We learned some things. Hopefully, so will our students, although that seems less likely. So it goes.

Later gators.


BP said...

1. Paul Weeks recruited me to Ripon. My dad asked him all kinds of embarrassing questions when he met him. He was super nice to me and even when he didn't work at Ripon and saw me in town, he remembered my name and asked about how my family was.

2. Nice try, but el pastor doesn't mean the pastor. It means the shepherd.

Claire said...

1. He refers to the "Wisconsin mafia." Does anyone know what this means?
I'm not at liberty to say.

Bryn said...

ok... i know i am a little late here. i read your blog about once a month and i have actually never left a comment before. i do however, have to take issue with the fact that you left out what had to be the coolest part of the day: coming to see me at MASH and meeting my students. i mean... come on.