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The Life of a Marking Teacher
by Brad

You’ve written your tests by now and are awaiting results; that means that your teachers are having a busy weekend!

What 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 that!).

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 examinations.

(January 15, 2012)

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