I asked Sam tonight about a test he'll be taking tomorrow in his computer tech security class. When he first started at North Central Texas College in 2006, he would often retreat to their student success office to take any test. He needed the quiet room, free of distractions, and the extra time, to get it done.
But the past few years, I've noticed Sam working diligently through test study guides. Now, these guides are often long -- perhaps 50 questions or more, clearly pulled from past tests, possibly on the upcoming test.
Sam works through them all methodically. He looks up the answer in the book or his notes and types it out in complete sentences on a virtual piece of paper. He puts in several hours each time he prepares. And he rarely does poorly on any test he takes any more.
I was curious whether he was going back to the student success center to take the test and Sam said no, he doesn't need that accommodation much any more, especially if a professor can accommodate him another way.
I was a little sketchy on what that detail might be, but Sam has learned to advocate for himself and the professors there at NCTC have come to understand him, too.
I asked him whether he thought those study guides were a good thing. He said they were the best accommodation of all. Once he answered something from the guide, it was "in my head for good," he said.
I wondered about all those students who might see a 50-question guide, skim it, and say to themselves, "oh, I know all these answers." I know I was one of those kind of students in my day. I got away with not going fully into the corners as I learned things, something I do not do anymore. I got bit one too many times in my life by not quite knowing what I should know.
Most of the time, all that is required is a full, careful reading of the material. And then it's in my brain for good, too -- or at least enough that I know it exists and where to find it again.
He said the funniest thing at the end of our little exchange.
"I don't need many accommodations any more. I feel I'm fully grown up now."