Posted by: rocketbride | March 27, 2015

confessions of a hard marker

This semester I’m teaching the second of two classes in a new program. In all of my career to this point, I’ve been a public school teacher: bring me your average, your bored, your yearning to eat chips, that sort of thing. I’ve gotten really good at playing in that particular register.

But these kids are something different. They want to be there. They want to know things. And worse: they’re all hung up on the number on the test.

Why is this a bad thing? Because I differ from most secondary teachers in that I am more emotional. I am, in fact, as emotional as a typical elementary teacher, and I am only able to protect my shrivelled little heart by relying on the apathy of the teens around me. When those teens start caring about, God forbid, academics, I start vibrating like a struck tuning fork.

It’s been a difficult year, and I’ve had to go on a second antidepressant to bolster the first. I had chalked it up to writing a program while planning another 2 years down the line, but I’m starting to think that the main reason I am having trouble being happy is that my students are so very worried about their grades that I’m dying a thousand deaths along with them.

This all came to a head last night, on Meet the Creature Night. Of my 8 appointments, 2 parents mentioned that they had heard from their children that I was a “hard marker”, but they heartily approved of such a thing. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this charge, and I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m personally or professionally insulted. After all, the only ones who have accused me of this before were immature seniors who blamed their crap marks on my obdurance rather than their own poor preparation.

Today I took the opportunity to make it a part of the ongoing lesson in resiliance. I pointed out that buying into the idea of me as hard marker meant giving up a lot of control over their own achievement. I talked about growth mindset. And I shared, from my own bitter experience, that you can be a smart kid in highschool, but eventually you won’t be the smartest kid in the room, so you better learn to deal with it. I’m still be taken to school by some of the brains I encountered in that first year of university, and feeling insignificant isn’t productive, nor is it interesting.

As my grandmother always said, whatever you choose to be, be the damned best. Be the best garbageman. Be the best clothes folder. Be the best Grade 9 student. Just stop frigging whining, ok? Ok.

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