Sunday, 22 January 2012

Eh Level?

I have just spent a very dispiriting seven hours (yes, Michael Gove, Education Secretary - SEVEN hours - on a Sunday. What were YOU doing? Eh? EH???) marking my A level group's first attempt at writing an A level coursework essay. At one point during those 7 hours I felt like flinging myself from the window and, yea verily, would have done so were it not for fear of squishing the chickens in the garden below.

'And, yea verily, if you HAD done so, 'says Mrs Pumphrey, who is surveying my room of my own with a view to putting in an estimate for redecorating, 'Mrs Slocombe would have squished your knee caps with her beak.'
'I know,' I say. 'But I had reached desperation point.'
'What stopped you , then, from flinging yourself from the window?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I think dusky rose would look nice on that wall, by the way.'
'A packet of Jaffa cakes,' I say. 'So not only am I depressed about the state of these essays, I am also eight Jaffa cakes fatter than I was this morning. And it's not even Fatterday.'
'Never mind,' says Mrs P. 'You can always disguise it with feathers. What is it that sheep say? 'I'm not fat, I'm fluffy'?'
'Sheep, schmeep,' I say.
'I was only trying to help,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'How about a Hockney print over there on the wall in front of your craft table? That'll cheer you up.'

So these essays, well, I don't know where to begin. Two of them were by late arrivals to the course who PROMISED me they were motivated enough to catch up in their own time, and clearly they weren't because they don't know their Benedick's from their Don Johns and their Elizabethan from their Restoration. And one of them thinks he can curry my favour by littering his text with smiley emoticons which is way too casual for my liking. Two of them have conveyed their thoughts and ideas via the medium of drivel, one via the medium of sarcasm and one via the medium of 'I'd rather be doing Maths.' Two of them are okayish in at least I have evidence that they have been doing extra work outside of class. And one of them has plagiarised almost her entire essay from four other essays to be found very easily in the interwebbly, and therefore she has treated me as fool who wouldn't recognise that her work is clearly NOT her work. I say 'almost' because her introductory paragraph is all her own work. Because it is drivel.

What am I to do? Does this mean that I am a rubbish teacher? Does it mean that I have taught them not enough? Or too much? Or that some Martian invasion has sucked out the entire and collective contents of their brains and replaced them with anchovies and/ or wet tissue?

I'm seeing them tomorrow. Tomorrow, they will present their shiny little faces in class, and look at me in eager anticipation of the results of their first grown-up attempt at essay writing. Will I get an A, or B or C? they will be thinking to themselves, because a couple of them have very high opinions of their ability, and a couple of them are just plain delusional. And a couple of them have adopted the never wise 'wing-it-and-see-because-we-can't-be-arsed' method. To be fair, a couple of them have, it turns out correctly, set their expectations at the lower end of the grade spectrum. Except their aim with this approach was false modesty. Ooops...

Never mind, I think. We have three months to work on these essays before they are due to be slaughtered at the altar of the exam board. Up is the only direction.


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