Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Yesterday was a new low.

The Year 10s had their exam which, I might add, I had stayed at the school til 8.30pm the night before, preparing. I did two versions as the range across the group is enormous. It involved lots of visual cues, diagrams, physically cutting and pasting pictures of shapes divided into fifths, quarters etc. The horrendous effort involved in putting it all together and trying to predict where they would trip up and metaphysically putting in 'ramps' was exhausting. So imagine my delight when, at 5.58pm, I paused in the mammoth task to phone the BA and make sure all was well at home only to hear the system close down automatically behind me. It does not autosave. Neither, it appears, do I.

The irony is that the system warns you of imminent shutdown and allows you to cancel this and continue on if your workaholic soul so desires. This is fine if you are looking at the screen when this 10 sec warning flashes up and not talking to your beloved daughter about possible dinner plans. I lost around 45 minutes worth of labour intensive work.

It was lucky there were no other good Christian teachers around to hear my language; the Lord and I are still working on that aspect of my flawed character.

So that was pretty depressing. But the REAL low came today when they attempted the exam. Three of them came to my room afterwards to berate me for making the hardest exam ever for them. And I mean berate!

"Mrs A!!!! That exam was SO HARD!!! There was nothing from what we did in class!!!"

"Yea Mrs A! All we do in class is play games and do tables and there was NONE of that in the exam!!!"

(actually there was a question directly related to the playing of a class game...but I guess they missed it in their panic. I don't know how as I had actually used their names.)

I checked over what they had attempted later that afternoon and was mortified. The results are going to be bad. Very bad. Questions which we had completed in workbooks in a repetitive and hopefully cumulative fashion, may as well have been written in Dutch. The place value of decimals still has no meaning for most of them. 7/10 as a decimal is apparently 0.12. Why? Where did the 1 and the 2 come from? 50cm x 50cm tiles required to cover a square metre? One apparently. But you'll still need 500 of them to tile a 35 square metre floor. And if they come in boxes of 20, you'll need 100 boxes. Again I say....why?

Many times when kids make mistakes you can follow the erroneous logic. For example, one question asked them to order the decimals from smallest to largest. This was one girl's response.

2.5 2.03 2.36 2.63 2.035

Not one of them is in the right place. But wait dear reader. There is logic. The first number is the shortest (ergo the smallest) the last is the longest thus the biggest and the other three are perfectly ordered in the middle. Thus we normally find some mistaken thought process in an answer.

Not so in some of these exam answers.
How many hundredths in a whole? 1000.
How many tenths in a whole? Also apparently 1000.

All of this was exacerbated by a discussion with their previous maths teacher who had managed to get them all to score between 70-80% on their exams. >:-(

I came home feeling like a complete failure. How was he able to get them to remember things and I wasn't? I curled up on the sofa and went to sleep telling everyone to 'leave me alone!'

In the cold light of morning I decided that despite the scores on their exams last year, they really hadn't learned very much as many of the things we had repeated this year....and it was as if they'd never seen them before. I mean, no point answering the question correctly in an exam and then not recognising it next time you trip over it is there? (We shall leave the small matter of what I retain from my Matric double maths course for another date.) So I tried to cheer myself and to think of what I could do differently.

Back at school, my mainstream Year 10 History class did their exams. I marked them at the hairdressers last night and I feel once more justified to take a pay cheque!! They have done reeeeeallly well! :-D

Happy Happy Teacher :-DDDDD

More of this late. I must away to face the last of my nemesis today. The Year 9 Maths Exam :-(


Andi said...

Oh, you poor, poor dear woman. Hope a good curl up on the couch did wonders for you. I have no idea what to say...except that you are doing your best (and SAVE your work next time). Math is beyond another language for me, and I scored poorly on many exams in my life...I am seeing first hand what my teachers must have felt. I am so sorry.

Maggie said...

Oh no! Maybe the Year 9 exam will have better results....my fingers will be crossed...

Chris in Happy Valley said...

There's got to be an end to it soon, when's your break? Don't classes start again in a couple of weeks?

If you feel like a walk on the beach this weekend, let me know. I'm hoping to chuck the crew in the car and head to O'Sullivans' on Sat afternoon.

Unless it's raining. Didn't you tell me it never rains here?

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness!

Hard not to - but don't take it personally! Seriously - it sounds like you have been doing SO MUCH to help these kids understand what they are to do. Unfortunately, you cannot make them care. If education is not a priority at home or in their own hearts, you can only do so much!

I'm glad the history exams went better. So many people just seem to be "afraid" of math - for whatever reason!
So many fraction discussions turn into money talk and that helps some of the 'get it.' For some reason money is money - NOT MATH?? Go figure.

I find lots of people here also afraid of science. Heard an interesting speaker who talked about this fear of math and science and called them mathematically and scientifically illiterate. And it is so true. We save science units to be taught between social studies units. And science is taught as though it exists in a bubble. If we used scientific language more often - it wouldn't seem so foreign. Almost cried the day a teacher "explained" the separation of oil and water in a beaker as "one choosing to run away from the other because it doesn't like it." GASP - YOU. HAVE. GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING!!!

Keep fighting the good fight!!!!

justjessie said...

At least your History class pulled through for you. It really isn't your fault that the Math class did so poorly. They are obviously missing a lot of foundational stuff. If I'm not mistaken, we learned fractions and decimals in third grade (8 yrs. old) and from what I gather you are teaching teenagers. Is that right? If so, their math problems began long before they got to you. I hope the year 9's turn out better for you. :)

natalie said...

Oh, friend. I'll gladly fly around the globe to bang my head on the wall with you.

Did the year 9's do better?