You Have No Power Here!

One of the best things about my job is how kids can always find or create something humorous or positive in any situation. There are few days more monotonous and frustrating than standardized testing days. Third grade is the first year they take the tests, so they are all pretty nervous and unfamiliar with the routine. I do my best to calm them down (just shy of saying “This test is a load of bull crap”), but they are still a little on edge.

One of the hardest concepts for them is that they need to stay seated. The test lasts at least an hour, and can go on for much longer. Until the last student finishes, everybody stays in their seats. They can get up if they need for legitimate reasons, but they need to ask me, and wait until I take their tests before they can move.

Please note that this level of security is not my choice. It is laid out in a dense tome known as “The Test Administrator’s Manual”. According to the manual, we have to protect the tests as if they were bars of gold, or the cure for cancer. We are seriously instructed “In the event of an emergency, ensure the tests are secure before exiting the building.” If a fire breaks out, just tell the kids “Hold on! Stop drop and roll, because we can’t leave until I have collected and counted all your tests!”

Anyway, the idea of staying seated isn’t easy for my kids. It’s hard to sit that long. Especially when you are 8. Especially when you have attention and impulsivity issues. In my classroom, they are frequently up and moving during lessons, so this was a new concept. They had a lot of questions.

“What if you need to go to the bathroom?”

“Raise your hand, I’ll come over and take your test, then you can get up.”

“What if you need a drink?”

“Raise your hand, I’ll come over and take your test, then you can get up.”

“What if you need to go to the nurse?”

“Raise your hand, I’ll come over and take your test, then you can get up.”

“What if you need to go to the bathroom?”

At this point I was about ready to start beating myself with the manual. Sometimes with kids, dramatic works better than logical.

“Look at it this way. Imagine that I cast a spell on you, and glued all your butts to your seats. The only way you can get up is if I come over to you and release you from the spell.”

They laughed, but they got it! And in answer to any “What if…” question, I just said “Magic spell!”

Only one student had trouble with this. During the test, he was like popcorn- up and down, all over the room. He just couldn’t remember to stay sitting. Finally I said to him (quietly, because the manual loves silence as much as it loves immobility) I reminded him of what I said earlier. “Remember, it’s like a put a spell on you so you can’t get up.”

He looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and yelled loud enough for the class next door to hear “You don’t have that kind of power!”

If you’ve seen or read The Lord of the Rings, you might know the scene where Gandalf is fighting with Saruman over control of King Theoden. In a scratchy old man voice, Theoden (really Saruman) yells “You have no power here!”

That was all I could picture. The rest of the kids were giggling, the wanderer in question was already standing up, and I was crouched next to his desk practically stuffing my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing. Every time I looked at him I pictured him with a long white beard and crazy eyebrows.


There is, oddly enough, no section in the manual on what to do if your students fail to believe in your supernatural powers, or what to do if you have a hysterical laughing fit when your students inadvertently act like Tolkien characters.

Get on that, Department of Education.


2 responses to “You Have No Power Here!

  1. Funny, funny, kid – their little minds are in a different world. It sounds like the world that is your classroom is a fun, safe one.

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