Oops!

Yeah, well, you wasted my time for much of this term, and now I’m wasting yours, you whiny little bastards.

It’s exam time, and we suffered a little misfortune yesterday. The classes have been split in two with my half going to the labs where they’re super­vised by some Chinese English teachers, while Glen’s half have remained in their form rooms under our charge. Yesterday’s exam was writing. Un­fort­unately, when Rose got the papers from the office, she took both writing and reading. Class 7 seems not to have done the latter; Class 5 made a start on the reading before Linda intervened; but Class 6 did both papers, as we discovered afterwards.

It’s not as if the Chinese teachers didn’t know that it was the writing exam. Linda produced bilingual notices and no doubt told them verbally which exam was being done yesterday. I also have to wonder why, it seems, none of the kids, having found the reading exam, said nothing. It’s possible that some of them did the reading exam first and then attempted the writing exam, but if they knew sooner rather than later that they’d been given two, why did none of them draw this to the teacher’s attention?

So this morning, I dug out an old FCE exam from June 2007 and Linda went off and got the reading part photocopied – for all of the students. The intention was that we’d start from scratch for everyone, even my half of Class 6. That seemed the fair thing to do because they might benefit from having the full 75 minutes for reading, a skill at which they are often rather weak.[1] In other words, it gave them a chance to improve their scores.

But apparently at least some of Class 6 were having none of this. Some refused to do the exam because they’d already done it. One huffily wrote his name on the answer sheet, but did nothing else. Today’s exam was an infringement on their “leisure” time. Now if for one moment I believed that they’d all put the time to good use, I’d be deluding myself. I don’t expect that although sitting another reading exam is undoubtedly an imposition, they’d understand we didn’t have them do a second one out of malice, but rather for their benefit.[2]

As for the writing, I’ve told Jason that if they’ve only produced a decent answer for Part 1, then he should assume that they would’ve got a similar mark for Part 2. In my experience, that’s true of FCE writing. The second part is often slightly less well done than the first, but the difference is rarely more than a mark.

And what do we do with the reading? If we mark them on the basis of yesterday’s exam, then they were at a disadvantage. If we mark them on the basis of today’s reading exam, their petulant, childish behaviour may have produced even worse results. At the moment, I’m feeling inclined to mark both papers (not exactly onerous) and then give them the lesser mark. Or I could give them the greater.[3] If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since I’ve been in China, many (even most, I’d say) of my pupils don’t really actually care about the marks they get in our exams.

Certain elements in Class 6 have been a pain ever since I inherited them from Row. Not all of them are annoying,[4] but I can think of eight whose removal would improve the class considerably. These are kids who loutishly chant, “DVD” or “Movie” (emphasise the initial syllable in order to reproduce how stupid they sound) when they come into class. They never ask politely, instead simply demanding such treats as if I’m some servant who’s merely there to do their bidding. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a CAT scan of their brains revealed that the neurons which fire when they see, say, a picture of a waiter are the same as the ones that fire if someone showed them a picture of me.

Anyway, let’s finish by reviewing what sort of kids are to be found in my classes. They’re either lazy or academically below average or both. They’re at the school because their parents have paid for them to be there. Their level of maturity is probably comparable to that of 12-year-olds in Western countries, but their manners resemble those of a three-year-old. Their ability to think logically and rationally or comprehend logic and rational arguments is somewhat limited.

The end of term is nigh. I have end-of-term-itis, the ailment that arises when the pent up rage and fury of the past few months turns my spleen gangrenous, and thus entries like these result.

Notes
1. It requires effort; this lot are lazy by and large; most of their reading isn’t done for pleasure.
2. One of those paradoxical moments where the thing is bad, but it’s good for you. Probably.
3. In all likelihood, it’d probably make no difference. Reading, as I’ve noted, is not one of their strengths.
4. Indeed, quite a number of kids seem rather decent.

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