What I Hated the Least Today 132/365: High (School) Students

These tests are putting my nerves to the test
These tests are putting my nerves to the test

I teach at what calls itself a university but is really an extension of the secondary school. I spent the last three days invigilating cheating students writing tests and subsequently marking their attempts. I wasted more time preparing and marking the tests than any of the students spent on studying for them. My teaching was a fruitless effort education-wise but a never-ending source of entertainment.

The students apparently expected to get the test questions in advance and generally assumed that I would lead them through the course while holding each individual’s hand, singing “Soft Kitty” in a soothing voice and looking after them like a kindergarten teacher would. Maybe said university is not even an extension of the high school but of the kindergarten.

Or maybe the students don’t think they’re still at the high school but are simply high. That would explain their unorthodox approach to test writing and to the English language, which they claim to major in. Here’s a selection of random picks from students’ answers on the test.

  • “Mary is not high enough to reach the shelf.” — The expected answer was of course “not tall enough” and the grammar being tested by this was the use of “enough”. I awarded half a point for this answer but would have awarded a whole point, had the student thought a bit about the semantics and had she written “Mary is too high to reach the shelf”. That sounds legit to me.
  • “The computer is not using now.” — The idea was to form the passive “The computer is not being used”. The author of this should follow the computer’s lead and come off drugs. I didn’t award any points because it wasn’t even passive. It was passive-aggressive.
  • “Her soufflé is on the top of the world.” — The student should have used an idiom with “world” in it, but I was secretly hoping that he would go for the somewhat more logical “Her soufflé is out of this world”. Clearly, the soufflé was high, as everyone else involved with the test (but me, who prepared and marked the tests while sober, which must have been a mistake).

34 thoughts on “What I Hated the Least Today 132/365: High (School) Students

      1. A sign of what the future holds? I often feel that way when seeing what our youth do here. It isn’t looking good but of course not all young folks are trouble.

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        1. The future clearly doesn’t hold anything to look forward to. My students sometimes scare me with how little common sense and how little interest in things they have. Maybe some of them will grow out of it.

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  1. I laughed so hard when I read this, had to read it out loud to my husband. He wasn’t all that surprised, and I kept underscoring “these are university students!” He thought it was important that you kept up your great sense of humour 😊. He’d worked in Bordeaux, France, at times, and he never saw the same people in class … or the showed up every third week or so. No order at all … .

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    1. I’m very pleased that while I didn’t teach my students anything, I managed to amuse you – and your husband! It’s hilarious and tragic at the same time. I wish I didn’t have to teach because it’s severely corrupting my sense of language. I get to see so many mistakes that I’m no longer sure what the correct version is. I will take your husband’s advice though and will stick to the humorous side of things 😀

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        1. 😀 My students would be pleased to hear that they are source of general amusement on my blog 😉 I naturally don’t share my blog with them, if only because it’s in English, which would probably pose problems to them 😮

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  2. I think you have reinforced the notion that we teachers always had that so often the marking of test papers was a whole lot easier after a few glasses of wine….then again the flaw to that argument comes when you hand back the papers and Johnny who copied off Mary asks why she got full marks and he didn’t protesting loudly that he never looked at her answers.

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    1. Thank you for being with me. I deem it essential to drink while marking tests / proofreading texts. I think it’s only fair since I’m sure my students wrote their tests while high and most authors write their papers while drunk. I am very lucky that my students don’t complain about the results too much – at least they didn’t complain after their midterm test. I made them double check my calculations, as I was sure I must have made a few mistakes, but no one raised any objections. They must be as bad in maths as me.

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      1. You are lucky indeed I used to have a steady stream of students wanting to know why they received the mark they did and arguing for more. Only once do I recall a very good student I had say she knew she got it wrong so accepted the mark I gave her, most would scrounge all they could for more. Enjoy your weekend and a well earned glass of your favourite.

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        1. Well, I was celebrating too soon. I posted the test results and now I’m flooded with emails from students who complain that they failed, want to see their tests to haggle about their results, and one even plainly asked me to find an extra point in her test so that she passes. Too bad. I’ll deal with the emails and get drunk tonight. (I’m joking, sort of, I don’t drink nearly as much as I suggest.)

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          1. Good luck with it all….as i may have said before if you mark out of 20 never give a 19 its too much hassle explaining why its not a 20….

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    1. That sounds like a good idea! I did show my students some videos and songs for education purposes – I showed them a bit from The Big Bang Theory to illustrate some grammar – they seemed to be enjoying the show but didn’t really learn the grammar, as it turned out on the test.

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    1. Thank you for laughing with me! I do my best not to lose my sense of humour. I often feel like I’m losing my common sense though, when being confronted with so much bad English. Soon we’ll be laughing not at my students but at me 😉

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      1. Someone once told me that the day we can laugh about ourselves we have really become independent thinkers. So, don’t worry, you’re on the road to enlightenment. 😉😉 thanks to your students. How about that, as a consolation?

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        1. I’m happy to hear that. I will not acknowledge my students’ contribution, should I reach my enlightenment, because I don’t think I’ll be ever so enlightened as to love my enemy and torturer 😮

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    1. I consider myself a lenient teacher. I mark as correct all answers that are in unbroken English, even if it’s a different answer than expected. Sadly, I don’t get too much material to work with.

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