Higher/Int. 2 Essays

I spent a large part of the weekend marking senior prelim essays.  After sharing my work with my head of department I discovered that I had been way too harsh on the poor critters.  I then took a look at my other colleagues marking and thought: “If I was too hard then he is definitely too hard.”  Shared this with him and a heated department debate ensued.  Luckily, we have a good natured department and, though all were vehemently defending their corners, the argument did not end in blows.

Seriously confused.  The Higher/Int 1 & 2 criteria appear to me to be subjective.  I’m hoping something will click at some point in the near future and I will be able to assess the essays accurately.  At the moment, however, I am looking to colleagues and the SQA training courses to guide me.  I can see a general consensus on close reading but few agree on the grades for critical essays.  What to do?

Shared the problem with my class and they sympathised.  :)  They also said they were glad I had marked harshly rather than too leniently.  A very mature reaction, I thought.

Exams Looming

It’s hectic at work right now.  The S5/6 prelims begin on Monday.  English first – eeeek!  In the last few days some of my class have begun to realise that the amount of effort that they have put in will bear somerelation to how well they are going to do in the exam.  Needless to say there were some worried faces in G12 on Friday.  The temptation to jump around yelling “I told you so” was tempered by the recollection that I had been just as laid back about studying when I was doing my Highers.  Did I increase my effort post prelims?  Can’t remember.

This is my first year teaching Higher so I’m very interested to see the results of the prelims.  Not looking forward to the marking though.

Also on the horizon is the return of HMI.  We had an initial visit 2 years ago.  The inspection, undeniably, helped to improved the school.  However, it was a truly horrible experience which demoralised the staff deeply.  Within classrooms the criticism was brutally direct and was not tempered by a recognition of strengths.  Two stars and wish - it was not! This is the final visit and we are all looking forward to it being over.  More than that though.  The staff have worked hard to implement the initial recommendations and we are hoping there will be some recognition of that. 

The Learning Environment

Today is an inservice day and I’m trying to make some curtains.  I am not a Home Economics teacher: a fact painfully obvious from the uneven, puckered monstrosities of alleged curtains that lie before me.  The reason for this venture into the world of needles and threads is a digital projector and some unadorned windows. 

It’s almost bizarre that I am attempting to block out natural light from my classroom.  The entire English department is located on the ground floor of the building.  A ground floor which has been cleverly disguised as a basement.  Our rooms have only a strip of narrow windows running along the top of one wall.  And just to make it a little more pleasant, it never gets particularly warm down here.  On the warmest summer days you can find me behind my desk wrapped in woollen polo necks and nursing a hot chocolate.  On sunny days the little windows let in just enough light at just the right height to wash out whatever I happen to be digitally projecting, rendering my ICT toy almost useless.  Bah! 

So I’m making curtains.

Also rethinking my wall displays.  What is the best use of wall space?  Exhibiting pupils work?  Displays designed to aid the pupils in their work?  A mixture of both perhaps.  And how often should I change them?  How often do I have time to change them?  Suspect I am not fully utilising a potentially powerful resource… 

Hooray for inservice days!

Peer Observation

As I noted earlier, I’m going to be writing a report on using self/peer assessment with S5/6.  The same day as I agreed to do this I had a conversation with a colleague about the usefulness of peer observation in the teaching profession.  My school are rigourously pushing observations at the moment and I understand why.  My colleague does not.  He, and many other teachers in the school, view peer observation as a “piece of nonsense”;  an exercise of no practical use to teachers.  I, personally, have always got a lot out of being observed.  It not only enables me to become aware of areas in my teaching that I need to work on, it also helps me see what I am doing right.  The latter is a confidence boost that I need sometimes.  The former essential to improving my teaching.  It’s a win, win situation in my eyes. 

Of course that doesn’t mean that I actually enjoy being observed.  I certainly don’t.  The feeling of self conciousness is very unpleasant.  Recently senior management have been observing our classes.  I’m not sure I fully understand the thinking behind this.  Is it a method of checking up on the teaching staff?  Surely that is not in the spirit of AifL.  I don’t have a problem with management ensuring the staff are doing their jobs correctly but I would like a spade to be called a spade.  Not an AifL shovel. 

The reason I wanted to write about this in the first place is that it made me think of my pupils’ opinion of peer assessment.  If many teachers resent their work being assessed by their peers what makes me think my pupils find it useful?  Realise the link between these two issues is tenuous but I often have a hard time selling peer assessment to my pupils and I wonder whether it is for similar reasons.  The benefits should be apparent to all.  But they are not.  Why is this?