Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Last teacherly act

I've officially moved out of the teaching profession (for now anyway). A couple of days ago, I performed my last teacherly act by logging on to check my Grade 12 students' Social Studies exam scores. In Alberta, all students need to pass Social Studies in order to graduate, and their final marks hinge on a standardized provincial exam worth 50% of their course grade. I've always been against such standardized tests; they seem counter-intuitive to me, and teach students mostly to regurgitate rather than analyze, particularly when it comes to Social Studies. But, I do understand the need for standardized tests as a way of "objectively" gauging students' skill levels, especially for post-secondary entrance. Still, that provincial exam is brutal in its heftiness, and can make or break a student's chance of graduating or going on to pursue studies at college or university.

I was pleased to see that all but one of my students had passed. The one student who didn't pass had gone into the exam with a rather low grade to begin with, and the provincial exam was mostly a practice-test for her. She'll have to return to school in the fall to upgrade. Part of me wishes I could have done more for her; she's actually quite a bright young woman, and the semester had started well for her. In the last month before the end, however, I saw her giving up. Her personal life had spiralled and overwhelmed her, and school had fallen by the wayside. Still, any failure on a student's part haunts the teacher, no matter how seasoned and otherwise successful the teacher is.

It is bittersweet to think that in the fall, I will not be embarking on another school year at the front of the classroom. It's a strange feeling not to set up my classroom, not to look up curriculum documents, not to prepare to meet students old and new.

My first-day jitters will be from behind a student's desk this time....

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