Saturday, January 29, 2011

Exam Time

Exam time is one of my favourite times of year, not because I enjoy administering a 30% final exam that frightens the heck out of students, but because I think exams bring out the best in some students.

The two or three weeks leading up to exams can be a very telling time for students. Many come to the realization that they won't pass or get the mark they were hoping for. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those students fail to do anything about the situation. This is not what makes exams a pleasant time. For me, the joy comes from that small percentage of students that decide that the last few weeks is the time to really make a difference. They're coming in for extra help at lunch and after school, they're studying on their own, they're catching up on work they've missed, they're helping their friends who chose not to get extra help. These are the students that have realized that they control their destiny. They have realized that it is not I who determines who passes or fails. I simply report the results. They have realized that they have more control over their learning and their marks than anyone else. They are ready for change.

This year was particularly exciting for me. I had record numbers of students in my room at lunch. Teachers and students would walk by my class and think that there was a class going on. I even had students from my upper year classes helping those in lower grades. The best part about whole experience was that all of the students who were in for extra help realized the relationship that exists between time spent on learning and how well they understand the material. Many of these students truly learned how to learn, which to me is far more important than mastering  the content.


  1. I womder about what can be done earlier in the semester to help kids realize they control their destiny. I watched the same thing with my own son whom wrote reports for the first time. I'm thankful for teachers like you who give up their own time to help. I just wish students were inspired earlier in the semester.

    I also wonder if this realization you encountered these past few weeks carries over to other semesters or do students forget and end up cramming again at the end of Semester two.

    Is this a function of the teenage brain or a function of how grading impacts students?
    Just Pondering it myself.

    Angle Harrison

  2. Angle,

    Two of the girls that took advantage of the extra help are in my grade 9 class. They are shy and lack confidence in their abilities. We worked on building their confidence and on the day of the exam while they were in asking their last minute questions I asked them if they would be willing to speak to my grade 9 class next semester about the importance of staying on top of things. I totally expected them to say no. Much to my surprise they were thrilled that I asked them. I'm not saying that this will be the magic bullet but I figure that it can't hurt to have the message coming from students as well.

    I'm not sure if these new found work habits will carry over but I sure hope they do.