Friday, June 27, 2014

How to Survive Exam Marking Season

I've been teaching for four years now and I still don't really have a handle on marking. Mark is the guy that has us procrastinating as teachers. Our houses are never cleaner than during exam season and we tweet and facebook more about the silly answers our kids give us as we mark. Not to mention gym. My muscles are cut faster now than they were doing before the exams. It's all coping mechanisms, really. I have some mechanisms of my own and they have proved pretty reliable.

Rule Nr 1: Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. The biggest mistake after my paper is written is making up excuses like, I'll start over the weekend. It's not going to happen. Sure, you'll get started but by the end of the weekend, you will have marked about 5 scripts, 10 if you're lucky! So, on the day that your exam is written and they hand you that mountain of papers; START!! Which leads me to Rule Nr 2: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. In my first year of teaching, I used to lug my papers from my work desk at home to my work desk at school and get very little actual marking done. I then discovered how much easier - and lighter - it is to carry smaller packs! Commit to marking a certain amount of papers during the day at school, even if it's just 5 scripts, and another 5 when you are at home. Some days ( only some days) I feel so motivated about the work I've done that I do just a little bit more!

 Rule Nr 3: "I don't have time" is the grown - up version of "the dog ate my homework". When marking season comes upon us we often stop doing everything else in our lives. Gym takes the back burner,you don't eat properly. Your house is basically the equivalent of what your res room looked like when you were writing exams at Varsity. I find that I am much more productive when I am under more pressure. On a Saturday morning, for example, I will do the laundry and clean all the while marking. Relax gentlemen, I don't mean do it all at once! A load of laundry takes a minimum of 45 minutes right? Surely you can do 3 - 5 scripts in that time! That's 9 - 15 scripts by the time you get to your darks assuming you split your laundry into whites, colours and darks and do your laundry in that order ( I think I take laundry way too seriously!). By lunch time you can reward yourself with a shower or a snack! Which leads me to Rule Nr 4: Being organised leaves more room for spontaneity. Don't stop going to gym or socialising just because you have to mark. Instead, make the other things in your life a kind of reward for the work you are doing. If I have the whole day, I don't shower until I have marked a certain amount of scripts ( overshare much?) after that, I don't have a meal until I have marked another certain amount of papers. After say, 15 scripts I go to gym or that braai a friend invited me to ( even if it's for just an hour and I have to head back to the marking). Before you know it, you will find that you have covered much more work than you would have if you had put the whole day aside for marking.

To be quiet honest. I find the marking season rather depressing. It is during this time that you come face to face with your work and realise what your kids know or don't know. I can't spend too much time marking because eventually I just want to cry because sometimes it seems like they just don't get it. These rules have been very helpful for me. It's like chasing smaller deadlines and has actually made my marking a lot less rushed. Try one or two of these rules and tell me what you think, ok?