About ten minutes into my first exam, I realize i'm in trouble. I see puzzled looks on several students faces, and soon 20-30 hands go up. Walking over, I see starting on page four, the student's exam had bizarre typos, replacing all the spaces with exclamation marks.
My heart dropped to my stomach... I check the pile of remaining exams, and it turns out half the tests which I had just picked up from the printing center had these bizarre typos on the last six pages, replacing spaces with exclamation marks, resulting in questions and answers which look like the above sentence.
The hardest part of my starting teaching has not been preparing the material, but the technical hurdles involved. Much of the technology that we have in the classroom is nice, like being able to play videos and prepare interactive talks. But this means I need to find the time to get into the classroom before class to hammer out what didn't transfer correctly between versions of powerpoint, or finding that ever missing clicker to control the computer. Also, most schools have blackboard or other online forums to interact with students, which is nice in practice, but having to go section by section (each of my two lectures is broken up into 6 sections) to upload documents or enter grades takes forever!
And this exam.... I emailed them as PDFs, verified to open on both mac and PCs, thinking that would be the safest way to send them. Since the other instructors typically send their exams in as word documents, they opened my pdfs in word, which lead to the formatting mistakes.
It's a terrible feeling thinking you aren't giving your students every chance to succeed. But sometimes things will go wrong, and you'll have to make some less then perfect decisions. I decided to let the students finish the exam; turns out most did better then their average, and I worked with those few students that seemed to do significantly worse on this exam. Still though, I made sure to hand deliver printed copies of my final exams to the print facility.