Not so long ago I was asked which one is more difficult as a teacher setting the test/exam paper or marking it? At that point in time I was not so sure, I was just neutral, thinking “oh well, it is just part of the job.” After going through an entire quarter of school, I think I have formulated my opinion based off of my personal experience. Both!
Setting the paper
This is intellectually difficult.
Every paper follows some sort of formula to determine the correct level of testing for your learners. Each subject, of course has its own rules and standards but I think at the core it is all the same. Approximately 55-60% of the paper the average learner in your classroom should be able to pass comfortably. The other 40-45% of the paper is for the overachievers that often require a little bit more of a challenge just for some intellectual stimulation.
As a teacher, the difficulty is in knowing the formula for your subject and knowing your learners, how they receive and process information, their potential for greatness as well as their desires to learn your subject. You have to simultaneously please both your learners and the department of education. The learners have your heart, but the department holds your credibility.
The question must make sense. You must know what exactly are you testing in your learners. You must incorporate both seen and unseen work that requires the same basic foundation of learning. Then you must also consider time, it can neither be too much nor too little. Lastly, you must also prepare them with confidence that they can achieve just about anything they want to.
Thinking about all of this is so difficult, because deep down, any great teacher knows that the learners in your classroom are so much more than the tests/exams that you set. Classroom performance and eagerness to learn will never, probably never match the performance in a stressful situation like a test or exam.
Marking the paper
This is emotionally difficult.
This continues on from my last point “the classroom performance ≠ test/exam performance”. Knowing this makes the feeling of disappointment inevitable and it can be heart-breaking.
I will admit, I tend to raise my expectation a bit too high sometimes. Only because I have a lot of blind faith that everyone wants to do well and they are willing to fight for it (not literally of course). Unfortunately, that is not the case. It is a sad truth to have to admit.
As teachers we are told to not be too hard on ourselves. I was told to hold onto the small wins and successes of learners who do pass, those that I can see are really trying their best every day. Yes, that is what I try to do, but the human thing is to genuinely worry about those that have not made it, they deserve it just as much as the others, right?
So now I sit in a deeply emotional state wondering where did I go wrong, what could I do differently, how do I motivate and am I able to give them what they need??? As I have said before, Teaching is an Emotional Act and this is a huge part of it. On the one hand you want to produce global citizens who are ready to face any challenges that the world throws at them, then on the other hand you want results that reflect that they can study and sometimes reproduce textbooks – contradictory, right?
I do not believe that marks on a report card reflect any bit of intelligence, but bigger numbers do tend to look better than smaller numbers and that’s the measure of the world which cannot be changed so easily, not yet anyways (we are working on it).
I have a deep love for the learners that I teach (most of them, maybe just some – kidding, but some days are better than others). I want each and every one of them to succeed in whatever they choose to do. I hope that one day they realize my efforts both emotional and intellectual and will hopefully meet me halfway.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed that and much as I did writing it. Till next time!!