Cheating (in) the System

6 August 09

So tired today. It may be the teaching of backward design. It may be the fact that I made the mistake of wearing long pants and the room I was teaching in had no air flow to speak of. It may be any  number of things. My money is on the idea that we’ve been going for about 5 weeks now and there are bound to be days that are more difficult than others.

Today was that day.

I’d been told that some teachers will purchase pre-written exams and administer them to their learners without reading the contents. This, I was told would lead to learners attempting to answer questions about material they hadn’t learned or even encountered in class. Try as they might, many would fail and need to repeat a class because their teacher was too lazy to write a decent exam.

I hadn’t believed it when I’d heard it.

When discussing the importance of designing assessment in Stage 2 of the Understanding by Design process, I repeated the story I’d heard.

“Does this really happen?” I asked.

“It does,” some responded while the others simply shook their heads at their lesser colleague’s actions.

I suppose my main ire is at the idea that, if you’re going to be an exam-centered educational system, at least do it well. Have a system you can be proud of or at least defend.

I’ve started to identify in some inexplicable way with belonging here. The unexpected affirmation of what I’d heard from my colleagues made me angry. Too much stands in the way of education for teachers to be pulling a bait and switch because they can’t bothered to do their jobs. More than just this, I think I’d enjoyed the idea that the similarities I’ve found between the South African, Kenyan, Canadian and American educational systems ended with what we do right. I didn’t want a reminder that our lowest common denominators are, indeed, common.

Maybe I’m just tired, and I should remind myself of the teachers here this week and their seemingly endless dedication, curiosity and hope for being able to do even better by their students.



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