Don’t get me wrong now. I love compliments as much as anyone. You take anything you get when you promote your blog on Twitter. But I’m no wonder teacher. My classes are not always the ‘Dead Poets Society’ classes. Sometimes they are but often my day is punctuated with the mundane, workman-like lessons which pupils don’t always appreciate. I teach well most days but I’ve blogged before about the blank slate approach to each new day. Like some never- ending computer game, you get through one level and, in the morning, are faced with a new set of challenges.
I apologise for returning to my marking approaches so soon but I do want to clarify a couple of things. I don’t want people to think I’m anything out of the ordinary. It has been a challenge marking books every day but I’ve settled into a routine which makes it more than manageable. It’s not easy but this job was never and will never be easy. I don’t work any longer hours than I did before. I don’t sit up to all hours weeping over another apostrophe error. My working hours are merely used in a different way. And I do it because I genuinely see the true value in marking EVERY book.
It is not important to me that the classbooks look nice. I want it to be important to the pupils though. I want them to take pride in perfection and see that the work in the books is valued by me and the school. When that happens they value it themselves. Their subsequent work is better. They are learning.
What is most important is that I am gleaning a huge amount of knowledge about these pupils. This information allows me to prepare lessons which will challenge and extend them. I can much more accurately assess where they are and what their next steps are. And, crucially, I can justify what I do in class. To management, to colleagues, to parents. This is my professional responsibility.
For too long I have succumbed to the internal warnings that I wouldn’t be allowed to try this; or management wouldn’t let me do that. What would be the point in asking? For too long I have assumed that ‘No’ would be the answer to my ambitious project on ‘Of Mice and Men’ or ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘Anne Frank’. I have sat idly by, watching opportunities pass me by in the night, turned away by a sense of futility. Now I truly believe that it is my duty to plan the best lessons possible no matter what. If I need permission for something then I can go, safe in the knowledge that what I’ve prepared is based on sound reasoning, classroom practice and awareness of my pupils’ abilities, and ask questions.
What I’ve learned about marking, and what I learn everyday, is that it genuinely allows me to be the most important factor in that child’s education in English. I know their strengths and weaknesses and can plan accordingly. If anyone wants to say ‘No’ to anything I want to try then that’s their decision. I think it is our professional responsibility to ensure that we are preparing the most challenging, engaging and thrilling learning opportunities for our children. If someone is going to say no to that then we have duty not only to let them do that but to make them say it. Don’t assume that no will be the answer. Do the hard stuff. Do the work. If someone says no then it won’t be because I haven’t prepared. Let someone else say ‘No’.