Sunday, 16 May 2010

Things I Learned From My Students #5: Pre-Exams Edition

The kids are starting to get scared about the exams. This is probably A Good Thing given that the GCSEs start this Friday. So here are some more nuggets of wisdom gleaned from the pre-exam scramble.

  1. There is a mythical goal called "Finishing The Syllabus" that few if any teachers attain comfortably.
  2. Even if you do manage to finish your syllabus the exam board will find a way to screw you over by putting the last module you covered first in the timetable so the poor kids have barely any time to revise it.
  3. Students aren't very good at spotting trends, and will predict the next in the sequence A A A A A A A A A as D.
  4. There will come a time when students just kind of give up on doing homework.
  5. There will come a time when said students just start laughing when you mention the idea of homework.
  6. Despite doing a Spearman's Rank Correlation on the grades acquired by the students versus the number of pieces of homework submitted, you will find no link and be forced to concede defeat.
  7. I'm one of those teachers who has vowed never to let a student down or to be the limiting factor in their progression.
  8. This means I'm spending a lot of time being let down by students.
  9. We really really need to keep our comparative anatomy collection.
  10. I'm getting a reputation as "that teacher who carries around animal skulls all the time".
  11. I like that reputation.
  12. Every class thinks they're the worst class I teach. Except the class that is actually the worst.
  13. Using the Venganza pirates-versus-temperature correlation graph to make a point can result in a fascinating conversation with some Somali lads who are very proud of their nation's long tradition of piracy.
  14. No student ever gets tired of watching birds of paradise doing their mating dances.
  15. Your responsibilities are far from over when they've finished the course and left college.
I doubt any of my kids read the blog, but if they are, here is a message for them:
You know more than you think you do. You are capable of everything you set your heart on. Read the goddamn question before you answer it.
Good luck kiddlywinks!


  1. "10. I'm getting a reputation as "that teacher who carries around animal skulls all the time".

    11. I like that reputation."

    Absolutely brilliant! I'm looking at teaching as a possible career path, and if this comes to pass that is just the sort of reputation I would want!

  2. I am (allegedly) approachable if you need help and a generous marker. I'd say my door is always open and I'm a fair marker! I think the academic next door to me must get a bit tired of the endless students at my door.

  3. I have to say, of all the reputations I could have, being the one who whips out the comparative anatomy collection at any opportunity is about the best, and one I am very proud of!

    I'm also getting another reputation - I don't have anything like as much trouble with some of the students as other lecturers do. I'm just not sure if that means I have a reputation for being a softy, or if I have a reputation for being an absolute bastard, or if I actually command a decent amount of respect. Whatever it is, long may it continue.

  4. "Read the goddamn question before you answer it."

    Had a college professor once who kept telling us to read the entire test before starting to answer the questions. He would often toss in things like:

    3. Ignore question #2.

    One year, after getting very peeved with those who just dove right in, he created a test with impossible questions, things like (and keep in mind this was an English History class):

    "Using the least-square rule for royalty, explain, with specific examples, the role of the extinction of the Dodo on Mauritius with regards to the insanity of George I through IV, inclusive."

    I kept reading the test, thinking to myself, oh shit, I'm sunk. The last question was a statement: "Ignore the test and watch the students who choose not to follow my simple instructions."

    It was a blast watching the rest of the class. Only three of us actually read through to the 50th question before starting.

  5. We've had a few people coming in to teach basic skills who've used a similar test. Gets the students every time.


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