#38 what is the point?

038/365 what is the point?, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

Exam week half way through, and the piles don’t seem to have got any smaller even after hours of marking. My head is buzzing from too much coffee, and my eyes hurt. Another lonely weekend with papers -family and friends neglected. This is the dark side of teaching.

We have exam weeks five time a year, plus make-up exams and national exam twice a year on top of that. During those times, I don’t really have a life. Even when I try to do something else to unwind, I have a guilty conscience and worry about getting it all done by the deadline. My family already know that they will have to look after themselves during these weeks – I’m irritable, and in my own world. Work totally takes over, and I don’t like it.

More and more I am questioning the sense in all this testing. It seems that all we do is test, and there is not enough time for learning in between. Will my red-pen correcting efforts truly lead to any student learning? I know all their mistakes by heart even in my dreams – I don’t need any more practice. Seriously, why don’t I develop more creative, new methods?


6 Responses to “#38 what is the point?”

  1. February 8, 2010 at 12:22

    This is a very disturbing picture, Sinikka, truly a dark side of teaching. As you say, when does the learning take place? How do the students feel about this? What about the other teachers? I agree with you when you question the value of teachers’ corrections. Surely there’s a better way.
    Here in Australia (or at least Victoria), we still teach to the final year 12 test. Of course, there is assessment in between, but from year 10 teachers are aware that they have to prepare students for specific skills and standards. In my opinion, this narrows the possibility of a better kind of learning, which takes off when students choose and connect to their learning project. I’m not sure what the answer to this question is, but I think we can’t ignore it.

    Thankyou for another thoughtful post.

  2. 2 sinikka
    February 8, 2010 at 16:52

    It’s the same here, Tania. We are preparing students for very competitive national final exams, the results of which are also considered for university entry. Too much time is wasted on teaching students about the tricks to maximize their points in these exams – which has nothing whatsoever to do with life outside school! It really narrows the chances to anything worthwhile at school, as you said.
    As you can see, working life is really seeping into my personal life at the moment… I need to find happier things in life, and restrict school musings for my other blog…

  3. February 9, 2010 at 06:04

    Our education programme is quite different – it is quite child-centred and inquiry based. The students are supposed to be evaluated on competency (how they use the skills, knowledge they have learned). There are far fewer standardized exams and more time for conferencing, goal-setting and self-reflection by the student. Exams should not just be marked and given back, but the students should look at the results and set goals for what they need to work on as well as develop strategies as to what that means and how they are going to do it. Otherwise tests don’t serve a big purpose other than to demoralize some students. That, of course, depends on the kind of test. Our language arts exams allow students to conference with each other and discuss. Students can they revise (in fact should revise). The English exam takes place over a few days.
    I agree, the cycle of teach / exam /teach /exam is not always helpful. However, our minister of education doesn’t understand our education programme and wants to go back to frequent exams.

  4. February 9, 2010 at 06:24

    Susan, I like the sound of your educational system. Is this the same for all of Canada?

  5. February 9, 2010 at 08:08

    I agree, your system Susan sounds so much better. I hope you are going to protest against the ministry proposals. Why would they want to go back? We so much want to leave this system. Is it the eternal pendulum of ideas in education – not being able to find the 100% perfect system?

  6. February 11, 2010 at 06:49

    In Canada – education is under provincial jurisdiction, so the education program we have is just for Quebec. I just signed a petition today protesting what the minister of education wants to do.

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