This week, I’ve been asked some pretty soul destroying questions by students. And it takes a lot for a question to really knock me sideways. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve grown thick skinned- rhinoceros skinned- as a result of queries posed by curious teenagers. Over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of the following:
“Miss, are you ill today? I can tell ’cause your hair’s a mess.”
“Miss, your eyebrows really confuse me…”-This was more of a question dressed as a statement: she wanted an explanation. I didn’t have one.
“Miss, why does your classroom make people sleepy?” -That’ll be the methodology.
“Who are the Spice girls?” As well as: “What’s Friends?”
“What’s your boyfriend getting you for Christmas?” -Don’t pull at that thread, kid.
Yes, these questions have publicly drawn attention to my age, failed relationships, my wavering ability to engage students and my questionable skill with an eyebrow pencil. Alas, these are not the questions (surprisingly) that have pinned me to the spot and made my stomach flip…
The gut churning induced QnA started recently, days before the Paper 1 Literature exam. An exam that we have been preparing for for 3 years. The questions ran as follows:
“Do we get an extract for both questions?”
“How many questions do we answer?” -My palms start sweating.
“Do we talk about Animal Farm on this one?-No.
“Can we just talk about the extract?”-No, dear God, no.
“How many paragraphs can we write?” -I’m standing in front of a white-board that specifically displays this information. It’s in red, the information is literally bigger than my head and shining on my face courtesy of the projector.
“It’ll be Lady Macbeth won’t it Miss, because I’ve only revised for Lady Macbeth.”
“Mr Bruff said I have to talk about the Gunpowder plot in Macbeth if I want a Level 9, do I?!”-No, and he never said that.
“Miss, where are you going?!”- I was going to the loo; they were 10 minutes early.
And , wait for it….
“Miss, can we take our books into this one?” -Hide the rage…Hide. The. Rage.
It was like the worst kind of Whac-A-Mole ever.
Initially, I feverishly answered in an attempt to rectify the misconceptions that I’d somehow allowed to brew without my knowing. It’s easy to start doubting yourself when students do this; you so desperately want them to do well and walk into their exam feeling confident. I realised that I needed to stop panicking: they knew. They knew all the answers they simply wanted to hear me, someone that they trust, tell them it all again. One million times.
But, painful as it might be, I’ll continue to repeat the information, answer the questions and quash the misconceptions for the next few weeks. I’m aware that some students are taking as many as 28 GCSE exams this year. There’s little wonder they’re buckling under the pressure.
For the time being, I’m not going to let a barrage of questions throw me or the students I teach off kilter, it’s all part of the exam chaos.
So, deep breath: fire away kids, what do you need to know?