Up to the mark?

Lots of marking... and that's not really my crochet in the top left... honest!

Lots of marking… and that’s not really my crochet in the top left… honest!

My least favourite thing about teaching is… marking. I’m supposed to be doing some now, but I keep finding other things to occupy me. In fact, I’m only managing to do any by rewarding myself with some other activities after every two of three scripts. I love interacting with learners on courses, but the impersonal act of judging their written work is quite unappealing to me.

Unfortunately, public funding for the sort of courses for adults that I teach generally relies on written assessment, as this is considered to provide proof of learning. When setting assessments, I always choose “formative” rather than “summative” ones, i.e, activities during which my learners will learn more as a result of doing them, rather than ones where they just regurgitate facts or demonstrate skills already acquired. Even so, I still end up with piles of marking… and it all has to be looked at.

I do teach a few courses that are not publicly funded, and in these there is no assessment… just the opportunity for learners to explore the subject as we go along and for them to find out whether they understand. In my teaching, there is no ban on asking questions, so once we’ve explored any given subject, everyone will have had the chance to find out everything they want to know about it… even me!

A soon as the marking was out of the tray, Max was in there... this may be a sign of things to come.

A soon as the marking was out of the tray, Max was in there… this may be a sign of things to come.

My days of marking, however, may be numbered. Not because our government has had decided it’s no longer necessary (quite the reverse is, in fact, the case), but because I am considering my future as a teacher within the university system. An unsatisfactory re-grading and a change to the calculation of travelling expenses has resulted in me not signing a new contract… yet. And on a sunny day like today, I’m thinking that working in the garden might provide me a with a better return; editing certainly would… and with much less stress.

I still love teaching… indeed, that’s what I will be doing for the next three days… but a cost-benefit analysis seems to be revealing more negatives than positives… we’ll see.

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16 Comments

  1. I agree that teaching (in all it’s forms) can be stressful. However I don’t think anything else has quite the buzz of a room full of learners actively learning, and on a good day there is really nothing like it. I know I missed it hugely when I was off ill last year.

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  2. Teaching my give a buzz but there’s a point when attempted cost cutting by the schools can have a very direct affect on the viability of staff being able to afford to do the job. The Hospitals have attacked the nurses pay, the education authorities the teachers, I wonder if they dare go for the policeman’s earnings next.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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    • True David… I personally feel like I’m subsidising a university by accepting poor pay and conditions. Mr Snail says I should quite… but I do love the learners.
      xxx hugs xxx

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  3. Marking was one of my least favourite activities too – I was even known to clean the oven when the large pile of books beckoned and the deadline was looming! Great way to exhaust good teachers and ensure no life skills are learned government! I still miss the fun of interaction in a classroom but don’t miss any of the other stuff at all. And I was in an alternative system that worked steadfastly to ensure education was a balance of activity, arts, science and learning via experience.

    Just before I retired I was working with 15 – 18 year old boys – some who couldn’t write their name and address, kids with no skills and no inclination to learn any and seeing a widening communication gap between these young folk and the older generation, whom they did not trust and whom they believed they could tell what they thought they wanted to hear and get away with it. When I asked why they behaved that way I was told I was the first person who had ever checked up on them. That’s the modern education system and there ends my rant for the day! πŸ™‚

    I’m with Mr Snail – life is too short to spend time doing stuff that makes you unhappy. Take the plunge and back yourself, fortune favours the brave I’ve recently been told πŸ™‚

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  4. Why subject yourself to the painful part, when you have the opportunity to enjoy the satisfying part alone? Effectively, they have taken the decision out of your hands by making the process so unappealing and poorly rewarded. Life is short. Do what you love.

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  5. Marking always is a bit of a slog. But occasionally, I would find some astonishing stuff when grading. Something that made the slog through the rest worth it. Alas, one also has to be paid enough. And there are also ample opportunities now outside the system to teach what you want and how. Double check the CBA and jump if it looks good!

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  6. JaneSuzanneCarroll

     /  April 21, 2015

    Someone once told me that marking, like grief, has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining (rewarding yourself with a task/treat/biscuit after every few papers), depression and acceptance. I find marking difficult because I hate putting a grade beside somebody’s efforts. I’d prefer if I could give feedback on how to improve and not have to give grades. As for your dilemma about whether to stick or twist (only question in life, really, isn’t it?) I say do the thing that makes a change. πŸ™‚

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  7. big decisions to make but OMG Max is soooooo cute! ❀

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  8. Oh, boy–big decisions on the horizon! It sounds to me like the marking of papers isn’t what’s really making you move away, although having to make a decision while you have a pile of papers in front of you might influence your decision! I’ve missed a lot about teaching college but giving grades isn’t part of it!

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  9. I’m with Pauline on this one. Life is too short for any unnecessary stress. It’s the universes way of telling you to make changes. It’s loud and clear. There are other ways to teach.

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  1. The good bits | The Snail of Happiness

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