Thanks for all the red pen

25 04 2013

red pen

It is that dreadful point in the academic year when tantrums and tears are a daily occurance…and thats just the staff!

GCSE students throughout the country have just realised that they are GCSE students and that they have exams coming up in the VERY near future and they are starting to develop a sense of urgency that they have never experienced or entertained before. Their lack of planning and preparation is OF COURSE the responsibility of their teachers; who must now treat their urgent requests to re-read endless drafts of substandard coursework – hastly put together under extreme duress and at the last minute – as their top priority.

I was discussing my own education with a colleague a few days ago. We are both feeling a little demoralised by how much our students expect from us. Dont mistake my meaning; I do not mind giving up my time for my students and often stay up to 3 hours after my day is technically over, to do 1:1 work or to direct and advise whole groups. It is not that to which I object. But I struggle when students want me to think for them, endlessly extend deadlines to accomodate their social commitments or allow their last minute panic, (following two years of not pulling their weight relying on the fact that they can pull it together at the last minute) to adversly affect my own work/life balance which is sadly lacking.

I was never top of my class at school; but I valued my education and took it seriously. To be honest, I was a little fearful of my teachers and very anxious about getting in trouble. I would never have dreamt of waving a stack of paperwork at a member of the teaching staff while they ate their lunch, assume I could dictate when I would hand in a piece of work or demand that I needed help after school on a particular date and time. Unfortunately there are a growing number of students who think that they own their teachers and are entitled to their time both in and outside of the classroom.

When I was at school, I submitted drafts of essays and devoured all the comments written by my subject teachers. I realised that these were the clues that would help me progress and I reflected on why a particular piece of work received the grade it was given. Although I was not an angel, I recognised boundaries and realised that my teachers did not owe me anything nor were they responsibile for my failings.

With this in mind I wanted to say to all my subject teachers particularly my GCSE and A-Level teachers – who were awsome, “Thanks for all the red pen“.

Without it, I would not have achieved the results I did, and my options would have been increasingly limited. I would hate to think that I only achieved my grades because a teacher went above and beyond ignoring whether or not I deserved and had earnt the qualifications I have to my name.

So although the next few weeks are certain to be highly emotional, I really hope that my students will look back and thank me for all of my red pen marks on their work, my feedback, criticism and the time I have spend coaching them and more importantly; I hope they come to realise that however demoralised they may feel on a given day that these interventions are as painful for me as they are for them and they are not there to punish them but rather indications of how much I care and want them to achieve the grades that they are capablee of.




One response

26 04 2013

I think this mentality of leaving things until the last minute and just assuming it will all fall in place is becoming epidemic in the younger generations. I know that both of my sons (22 and 19, college students) still seem to think they can wait until the last week to write and eight page research paper. Of course, I’m expected to drop everything and edit it for them, too.

How can we, as teachers, combat this mentality? It’s obvious that our nagging isn’t all that effective. Even working my sons from the parenting angle, I haven’t been able to convice them to give up this last-minute mindset because they’ve managed to get through 16 and 14 years of school riding this sled of unpreparedness and emerging from the slopes as “B” students.

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