Despite what many outsiders may think of teachers and their work lives, it’s a ridiculously demanding occupation. The situation here in Dubai is even crazier with teachers and their work being constantly scrutinized under a microscope. When you hear teachers say ‘teaching is the hardest job in the world’, trust them because they know what they’re talking about.
I’ve been teaching for a little over six years now and I’ve found that with time and routine part of the workload (the regular stuff) becomes quite manageable, but the hardest and for me the most stressful part of the job remains: correcting students’ examination papers. It’s the part of the job that, in my opinion, induces the greatest uncertainty, anxiety, and torment. It is the bane of my existence.
I know that some teachers actually enjoy grading and assessing pupils’ exam sheets. They claim that they find it interesting to see what their students have learned and how they’re doing. I admire that attitude but I don’t share in it. There’s plenty of time all term to do that!
This afternoon I began the drudgery all over again. I sat down at my local Starbucks, ordered my coffee and the process began. For those of you wondering, I choose to do part of my corrections at Starbucks because there are no distractions here. At home I’m constantly torn between my corrections and my bed, the laptop, my iPad, music…you name it…..everything becomes a distraction!
So what is my modus operandi during these trying times? I’m listing them here for the benefit of all those of you who find yourself in this cesspool of corrections and need some tips to make the time in there a little less stressful.
- Reward yourself when you’ve graded a reasonable batch— say 5 or 10 papers so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment. Rewards might include a walk around your apartment, some coffee, tea, maybe something stronger, a quick bite or in my case a packet of white chocolate chip cookies from Marks and Spencer. The sense of accomplishment after finishing the said number of papers is all too reassuring, the only worry is those breaks stretch to a good forty minutes sometimes (like now….when I sit down to blog) and then panic begins to set in.
- Pretend you’re a Chinese Government official for the next batch – Block all access to Facebook, twitter and other social media. If you have mobile devices lying around your house turn down the volume. The incessant pings and notification chimes are worse than ancient water torture techniques. Do not give in. Check 5 – 10 more before you race to check your wall or timeline. If your friends are anything like you, they’ll probably be waiting online when you’re taking that next break.
- Don’t wait until the last-minute; you’ll do a poor job, and you’ll hate everyone involved because of it. This is a tough one and the one I struggle with the most. Each time I go into panic mode I’m transported back to when I was younger and my mum would say ‘Sydney, you procrastinate way too much!’ Yes ma…you were right…and I still haven’t learnt my lesson! To wait for weeks and weeks between receiving a paper and returning the paper is to spoil the exercise. While I know and believe this, I still waste so much time anyway!
- Don’t try and be extra clever when you’re correcting papers. If you want to show off your crackling wit keep it for an email or blog post. A child’s exam sheet is not the place to tell them how they’ve wasted time or how they’re capable of better results or how they need to buck up and get back on course. Teachers love to do this, trust me; but I strongly believe it accomplishes nothing. Feedback must be precise and helpful or else it’s not feedback at all! I think we must all keep in mind we are their teachers not someone employed to judge them!
- I love living alone but sometimes when im working quietly at my laptop the silence can become eerie and unnerving. I like to have music playing softly in the background. But be warned this is dangerous. You must choose your music wisely; not the kind of music you love – that will keep you singing along and often times I find in those moments the singer in me feels like breaking loose! Choose music that will keep your spirits high without distracting you from the drudgery at hand!
- Lastly set your eyes on something so grand that you’ll plough your way through undeterred. I know that a week after I’m finally done grading papers this month, I’ll be setting off for India and nothing makes me happier than being with my family again!
I wish I could impart to my overworked colleagues some wisdom about how to make grading exam papers less excruciating. Alas, I don’t know how to solve this dilemma because multiple factors and worries contribute to our pain. A tall glass of Chardonnay might help but you’ll be tempted to follow that one with another. And another. And another. So anyway that’s what I do to keep myself from clawing my eyes out. Let me know if you have something you’d like to add to this list.
Cheers! Yes…I am trying the Chardonnay option this evening ….! 🙂