Teachers’ Day 2023: The Mark of a True Teacher

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By Dang Tran Minh Phuong (Annie) (24A01A) and Camillia Anum Mohamad Ashraff (24S03B)

With exam season looming (or rather, charging straight at us), all eyes turn to the students as we prepare to mug. The horrors are upon us once more: swathes of unannotated notes on beds, question marks scribbled over past questions, and a terrifyingly unhealthy sleep schedule.

Yet, another group might be on a more similar boat as students than you think. When the waves get choppy and students rock their boats in a frenzy to get their academics in order, one other boat in the ocean also gets shaken—the teachers’.

While students load themselves with months’ worth of content, formulas, and revision, teachers also gear up for a similar battle—the marking phase.

This Teachers’ Day, Raffles Press interviewed three teachers to find out what their marking setups look like as they prepare to charge into marking season.

“Accept no substitutes.” –Mr Low

For Mr Zachary Low, he readies himself with a stack of scripts and a red 0.5 Pilot G2. This red 0.5 G2 is the only pen out of millions Mr Low will use. With an “ink [that] flows smoothly”, a colour that is “the striking red of judgement”, and a mechanism that “has a satisfying click in anticipation of the pouring out of aforementioned written judgement”, this red pen is “the undisputed king of writing instruments” for him. 

Mr Chan Jia Le gears himself up with a full red pen as well, alongside “a big empty table”. Unfortunately, this space is “almost impossible to find nowadays”, so he usually “push[es] everything aside to free up the space”.

Mr Damien Marie finds comfort in a similarly minimalist environment during the marking phase, simply needing “a quiet space and coffee”. To carve out this quiet time, he “usually start[s] early in the morning when everyone is still asleep” and “make[s] [himself] the best cup of coffee that [he] can to wake the brain cells up”.

Mr Marie’s Marking Setup! (Cat included)

In fact, starting in the morning seems to be a strategy these teachers like to employ. Mr Marie finds that marking “early morning is best” (though when urgent, any time of the day works). Both Mr Chan and Mr Low find marking in the morning when they are “fresh” (both have used the word “fresh” in their response) works best for them too. 

Three sighs, two false starts, and many commiserations with my comrades.

Mr Low, when asked about his pre-marking routine

Mr Chan takes on a more practical approach, counting the number of classes he needs to mark and estimating the time he needs in order to “work [his] schedule around the markings.”

For Mr Marie, he starts with a “coffee cup, deep breath, and keep[ing] [his] handphone away to avoid distractions.”

While marking, as they push on and through, they sometimes snack for fuel (as most students may be familiar with).

Mr Low’s to-go snacks are some “chocolate and good coffee”, while Mr Marie finds that anything can be a pick-me-up, from “healthier options like fruits to sinful ones”. He confessed that his favourite snack is Doritos.

For most teachers, marking sessions are anything but a sprint—more of a marathon. Like athletes, they pace themselves to reach their final goal without burning out.

Mr Low marks 20 essays a day around exam season because of the stricter deadlines, but it is ultimately a good day for him when he marks five to ten. At peak productivity, Mr Marie marks about 10 to 12 essays, but it can drop to two to three if motivation is in short supply. As for comprehension worksheets, it can range from finishing a whole class’ worth of marking in a day to only six application questions.

When asked about what their marking process looks like, Mr Low keeps his marking “pretty structured”, “skim[ing] the essay quickly to get a sense of what it’s trying to say” before “work[ing] through the essay bit by bit, adding comments where necessary”. He also “keep[s] another document open to record common misconceptions and mistakes, so they get addressed.” 

Mr Marie’s strategy is a fairly simple one: “Start with the hard ones first—tough questions, popular questions, horrendous handwriting, etc”. He realised that if he finished with those after a long day of marking, he would be overly strict and not objective since marking the especially challenging ones can be frustrating.

Mr Chan kept his marking process more secretive, saying that it was “Classified and confidential—can’t share much.”

There are countless misconceptions that students have about marking. Some may think it’s easy, and some may think that it takes too long. Mr Low shared a surprising insight concerning this, saying that “Most of what ‘r/sgexams’ says is untrue.”

For the uninitiated, ‘r/sgexams’ is a popular Reddit community amongst Singaporean students.

Mr Marie had a more impassioned take to share, directed to students who complain that GP takes a long time to mark. “It grinds my gears because it takes a long time to think about what is written, to process it and do justice to what the team agrees on. If some want speed, then they need to be prepared with inaccurate marking for GP.”

Interestingly, Mr Chan has never heard of any marking misconceptions. He reasserts that marking is “a very tedious, tiring and painful process.”

At the end of the day, the marking process is a battle hard fought. Given all the illegible handwriting and weak lines of reasoning in our scripts, we should be more appreciative of the ones who have to put up with it the most.

Thank you, teachers, for all the marking you endure for us. More importantly, for always riding the waves with us and teaching us more than just your subject content—that is the true mark of a teacher.

Happy Teachers’ Day!

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