The Life of a
your tests by now and are awaiting results; that means that your
teachers are having a busy weekend!
is it like to mark papers at the PALC? Well, for me as a teacher of
English 11 and 12, it is a fascinating process that often makes me look
off into the distance to marvel at the infinite variety of experiences
my students have had in their lives and how those experiences influence
their world views.
My English 11s had to respond to a story that
contains a character deeply affected by his need to move, mid life, to
a new country away from his “homeland.” He is a deeply wounded man. How
sympathetic students might be to the character is very much affected by
their backgrounds. Those who have experienced war and dislocation not
only understood the character better, but showed more sympathy to his
prickliness! I am humbled to know that there are others in the world
who display the same wounded pride (as at least one student informed
me). After marking the papers, I am left with more and better
information for myself as a teacher.
For the 12s, a wife is
presented who, upon the death of her husband, finds herself happy to
contemplate a life of freedom without the bonds of marriage. Students
reacted in diverse ways to her sudden realization. Everything from
harsh criticism of her through to empathy and concern made marking
these papers constantly fascinating. How much are we able to sympathize
with a person who feels crushed and impeded by the demands of marriage?
It’s very interesting to find out!
For me, marking is not only
an exercise in noting the successful use of sentence structures,
spelling or grammar. That counts, of course, but it is not the only way
an English teacher evaluates a student. Ideas and opinions, no matter
how far from my own, can be presented in many reasonable ways based on
the facts provided by any story (or poem; don’t get me started on
In the end, I find myself pleasantly exhausted and, I
must say, better educated. Every year I mark final tests and every year
I learn new things, new ways of looking at the world. For that I must
say to my students: Thank you for enlightening me and thank you for
enduring the difficult and tiring process of writing English
(January 15, 2012)
2002 to date
Weekly Features with descriptions)