Saturday, 22 March 2014

Spring, sweet Spring

is the year's pleasant thing.   Don't know who said it - probably in a poem I suppose, but no doubt one of you will know.   The whole point of quoting it is that officially we are now into Spring and there is half an inch of snow lying on the grass.   The shower has passed and the sun is coming out, so it will be gone in no time.   But it is colder than it has been for some time.   Interestingly, we chart rainfall and so far this month we have only had half an inch, which explains why the fields are drying up so well.   Now we need warm sunshine to kick start the grass into growing.

Now for today's thoughts for you to get your heads round.   I read in yesterday's Times (where would I be without it?) that a school has banned teachers from marking work in red ink and said they must use green ink in future as it doesn't present such a negative image to the pupils.

Having been a teacher in a Comprehensive School for some years, I have strong feelings about the marking of pupil's work.  First of all, no teacher should EVER return a book to a pupil unmarked, even if the teacher has to sit up all night to do the marking.   That, above all other things, presents the most negative image.

Secondly, said marking should ALWAYS be positive, whatever colour it is.   I personally think marking is like a written conversation with a pupil.   Ticks and/or crosses serve no good purpose at all.   If the work demands all ticks, then some really positive comment should be writ large - if the subject is English, then perhaps a suggestion of a book the pupil may like to read - or a suggestion of ways of extending the piece of work.   If the subject is more scientific - say maths - then if the answers are wrong there absolutely must be a follow up.   Maybe an extra ten minutes at break or after school - something which helps the pupil to understand without drawing attention to his/her inability to get the answer correct.

Often I would write a few questions at the end of a piece of work - and I would expect answers, either written or in a conversation in class.   This kind of marking builds up a sense of respect and trust between the teacher and the pupil.  Yes, I know teachers are stretched to the limits these days.   Good teachers always have been but that is part of the job.

Thirdly, from a parents point of view, parents should keep an eye on how their child's work has been marked.   I remember with shame how I never looked at my son's books when he was doing French O Level, assuming that as we were paying heavily for his education he was getting the best.   Never assume any such thing.
He did rather badly in his exam and when I looked at his French work books (the subject was taught by the Deputy Head of the School, incidentally) I found that they had never been marked at all.  Did I follow it up?  No.   Should I have done?   Yes!  School is also a 'conversation' between parents and the staff of the school.   Gone are the days when parents never questioned anything.

Fourthly, from a pupil's point of view:   I remember Science, a subject which was always pretty much a closed book to me.  We had some sort of equations taught in one class and then homework set on the same subject.   I had not understood it at all and needless to say, I got the whole homework wrong.  I was just marked as wrong, there was no follow up at all, and that was where the sense of failure in that subject set in.   I switch off at anything scientific.  I am not suggesting that a bit of positive marking might have made me an Atomic Scientist, but it might have helped to make me feel a little less of a failure.

So, to sum up, I personally don't care what colour the marking is in.  Maybe keep to black ink is the answer then any impressions the pupil may get from reading the marking are not influenced by colour.   The only important thing is to keep all marking POSITIVE and the build up a two-way conversation on the page.   That is how to earn the respect of every pupil in the class.   However disruptive a child may be, he or she needs to feel that the teacher is trying to help, is trying to bring out the best in them.   That is all the matters.

16 comments:

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

As someone who got lots wrong at school - I prefer red to green. It's a cheerful colour and the slight lift of spirits it brings takes the edge off the hurt of failure.

I really like your interactive approach to marking. (Except for keeping people back at break or after school. I think I would have experienced that as punishment, however kindly it was meant.) If only this kind of engagement was standard - mandatory even. I knew a child who was very put out because having put a lot of effort into homework, all that happened in class was that the teacher asked those who had done it to hold it in the air - that was it! Over and over, homework when done was held in the air. I suppose you could have waved your book even if you hadn't done it. The cruelty!

Em Parkinson said...

I completely agree Pat. OB's teacher marks in purple and is really positive. Red just means you can see it better as far as I'm concerned. I tried marking birthdays on the calender in green instead of red one year and kept missing them!

thelma said...

Bet you were a good teacher; I did a couple of years teacher training, but the comprehensive school I did time in scared me off;. But positive encouragement of the child, whatever colour the ink is, should be the main goal...

Heather said...

I would love my children to have been taught by someone like you. I think it makes sense to mark in red ink so that the teacher's comments are easily picked out from the pupil's writing. Not to mark work at all is unforgiveable. I suppose green ink would show up just as well but to ban the use of red ink seems just another sort of dumbing down to me.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lucy - perhaps I should have explained more fully. I would discuss the work with the child and we would come to an arrangement when it was best to go over the work again. You would be surprised how many children would willingly miss playtime (particularly on a rotten day) in order to get extra help. If all else failed it would have to be during classtime, but then time is limited.

jinxxxygirl said...

Thats the problem my dear ....good teachers like you have retired and have not been replaced...Hugs!deb

Willow said...

So true . We moved around the Sates and Europe a lot with my dads job and good teachers were my saving grace . I always looked to them for reinforcement and encouragement. i was lucky to have had mostly wonderful teachers that did give great feedback and it encouraged me to do my best.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a wonderful teacher you were - unlike those when I was in school - all those years ago. We were sat down - told to learn by rote and then expected to regurgitate it back exactly as we learned it - no thinking - no new ideas.

Our grandsons are being taught to think. One of the sections on their report cards is "critical thinking" - what a change that is. Their teachers are kind, generous, helpful and pay attention to each student's work and progress - it is so refreshing to see the changes in education these days - young teachers are taught to "teach" children - not to make them memorize only - though memorization does have its place at times.

Our middle grandson is taught to "think" about the subject in question, then "remember" what he knows about it and then "infer" the answer using his knowledge - and if he can't get the answer or understand he is taught to "research" for better understanding. Quite impressive for third grade - but it will be a help all his life.

mrsnesbitt said...

Aye - teachers in the news yet again! Phew! I can feel my blood pressure rising by the second!

Terry and Linda said...

The world needs more teachers like you!!

✿♥ღ Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

The Weaver of Grass said...

Seems we are all agree d- colour is not important. What matters is the communication between teacher and pupil Thanks for joining in.

Crafty Green Poet said...

When I was teaching in Malawi, I used to mark sometimes in blue and sometimes in red. I agree with you that the teacher needs to do more than just tick or cross, there are always more important ways to interact with the pupils.

MorningAJ said...

I think if I'm getting something wrong and my homework is all crosses it wouldn't really matter what colour they're in.

Of course, you couldn't use green in Northern Ireland because you'd upset half your class!

Dartford Warbler said...

Positive marking is the only way to encourage and help a student. It seems to me that an obsession with the colour of the ink is missing the point!

I taught across the age range and I don`t remember seeing or doing anything other than positive marking, tailored to the needs of each child.

Pat - I have that poem in an anthology somewhere. I`ll try to find it!

stuart dunlop said...

My worst ever mark in a school exam was 11%. That was my latin o-level prelim. Because of that, I wasn't allowed to study biology and went into electronics instead. Nowadays, as a wildlife observer, I use more latin than anyone else I know. It's a funny old world.

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