Eight-fifteen, Sunday morning. In bed. First cup of Earl Grey and let the marking begin. A colleague said that his wife forbids him to do any school work in bed - as if he should be at his age! Fair call. It's a bit of a violation of the marital boundaries, I suppose. But for me, it's the best place to do it. The marking. Get it done quickly enough and I can trick myself into believing that I'm not really working. (Gotta feel for my old man, eh.)
By ten fifteen I'd completed it. This is the thing. Marking that pile of year 8 work was a light-bulb moment - well, 120 minutes. I had an insight, and it wasn't how shit it was to be working for the second day of my weekend. No, it dawned on me that I was actually enjoying what I was reading, albeit some of it laden with technical errors. My year 8s, despite the vagaries of their thirteen year old selves, had engaged with the task. They were having fun writing an alternative ending to Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo. They were playing with similes and metaphors and writing entertaining, plausible scenarios. Well, mostly. One student had turned Sarge, Lockie's dad, into a pathological practical jokester, setting up Lockie to believe that (a) his whole family had perished in a car accident on the way to church, and (b) that Lockie had terminal cancer. Even got a doctor to play along. Gotcha! This was Sarge's strategy to get Lockie to stop moping over the demise of his relationship with Vicki Streeton. Made for interesting, entertaining reading.
Just about every kid in the class completed the assignment. Some of their stories contained writing in my own hand, a sentence or two to give them direction or inspiration when they claimed they were stuck. Love doing that. Love the responses when the kids grab an idea and run with it. Lots of the kids had redrafted their writing. The finished pieces showed genuine pride in their work.
So this morning, I was pleasantly rewarded to be able to see where I'd been as a teacher. I'd facilitated the learning, and here was some evidence in the finished work.
However, I'm not seeing this much from the Year 12s, and it's not for the want of trying. I do most of my teaching at year 12 and for a lot of the time I feel like Sisyphus, if he's the guy who had to keep rolling the boulder up the hill just to have it roll down again. Spent about four hours yesterday marking SACs on Encountering Conflict. Mostly they were turgid. Some students are genuinely engaged in the task; developing as writers. Others try, but with limited success. And then there are the students who write unmitigated pretentious rubbish; page filler. Sadly, their literacy skills suggest that if they just made an effort they'd be quite capable of writing well. There's my dilemma and there's that massive rock again. How to motivate the disengaged.
Think I need a sabbatical from teaching VCE. It's not fun. It's constant pressure to get through an enormous workload: wall-to-wall SACs leading up to the final be-all-and-end-all exam followed by the judgment in December when the results come out.
A couple of years ago I suggested to my former principal that I have time off from teaching the year 12s. She told me I'd miss it and wouldn't cope! When I assured her I would, she told me that in that case she'd have to give me a directive to teach it. The trouble is that few English teachers at my school want to teach year 12 because they know how demanding it is. Meanwhile, I keep working six days a week pushing that rock up the hill. Perhaps, like Sisyphus, I'm being punished?