A Story From the Marking Floor: A Quarter 3 ‘Pick-Me-Up’ of Sorts

I have just returned (along with Mrs. Gardner and Mr. Cox) from marking English Part A Diploma Exams in Edmonton. While the adage “What happens on the marking floor, stays on the marking floor” is usually well-respected, I thought I’d provide a little contextual information to combat any false rumours.

Firstly, I have to state that it is a good thing when your teachers go mark diploma exams. It’s an excellent opportunity to network with other teachers, to “recalibrate” our application of the provincial standard, and to fine-tune our own assessment skills– all of which is a direct benefit to you.

Having said that, it is also a gruelling, brain and bum-numbing time. The food is…tolerable (to be mild), the chairs are a few degrees shy of being an instrument of torture, and there isn’t a single day off. There were moments when I found myself longing to just stare out the window for awhile, especially when I heard the birds chirp outside, and on some afternoons, the sun’s rays would wash over my head – like a baptism by warm light – all while I was reading my 70th critical response about Death of a Salesman.

And if fate is on our side, we will be at a table with others that like to snack as often, and as poorly, as we do.

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Whatever gets us through…

Each paper in each booklet is treated with the utmost care. If we aren’t sure about a score, we have another set (or multiple sets) of eyes take a look at it. We discuss, we pore over the rubric, we rationalize, we justify, and then we ultimately have to bubble our decision in pencil.

I had a first-time marker at my table this session, and on a few occasions, she would flutter her hands up and down and quietly exclaim, “I think I’ve got a good one!” Then she would fold her hands together under her chin, lower her head closer to the booklet, and grin as wide as the Cheshire cat. It was as if she was watching the birth of a magical puppy. She was adorable.

It’s true. When we read a good one – a really good one – we can’t contain our contentment. While reading the paper, we are quiet and unsuspecting because of our concentration, but after we’re finished, while we flip the pages back, we gently recline in our chair and absolutely must vocalize our admiration. My table leader’s catch phrase for this moment was, “That was LOVELY.” When it happened to me, I sat in that “peace” for a few seconds before making a move. It’s like savouring a rich dessert.

Ultimately, despite the physically draining reality of marking diploma exams, it’s the joy and pride expressed by the teachers while your hard work delights them, that makes it all worthwhile.

And that’s a secret from the floor that I don’t mind revealing.

  • Mrs. Hartman

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Mrs. Hartman is a Lead English teacher and the Blog Administrator at CCH. When she’s not marking papers, you will find her writing, reading, scrapbooking, walking her dog, reading, writing, cooking, singing, and writing. Her favourite things about CCH are all of the amazing people she works with every day.

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