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Friday, September 2, 2016

Teacher's Day 2016 (Best Presents in the World)

Before I instituted my No Gifts Policy where I communicated to all parents that all gifts would be immediately returned, I received love gifts EVERY WEEK. My staff were all amazed at the never-ending stream of presents. 1 or 2... every week. That went on for one entire year before I decided that the best way for students to repay me for my efforts was to work hard and bring me results that truly reflected their potential.

I received 2 gifts this week that made me cry.

These gifts are all the more cherished by me because I know the cost to the children. These gifts are worth more than a single afternoon of toil in the kitchen baking cookies, or a trip to the mall to buy some chocolates. Very often, Teacher's Day gifts are arranged by mothers anyway. However, I am not teaching the mothers. I am teaching the children. 

These 2 gifts are the result of week after week of consistent toil and resilience to negative feedback. Ever since the MOE changed its marking criteria for PSLE compositions, it has gotten that much harder to score. Peppering the piece with Power Words is no longer enough. You have to ensure...

- a tight story line
- a coherent storyline
- well developed characters
- precise and well-chosen vocabulary
- etc... (there are many many etc...)

No More Shortcut Cheats
 PSLE markers have also become very skilled at identifying regurgitated chunks, so you also cannot memorise and regurgitate chunks. In addition, the requirement to write to theme AND picture really needs the children to think up their own storyline. Unlike the picture compositions of the past, there is no way to memorise compos related to this or that picture setting and regurgitate during the exams.

The PSLE sets THINKING exams now and PSLE markers are becoming more skilled at looking for the ability to think in the PSLE compos. For 12 months already, you can no longer impress teachers with Power Words.

When I started teaching in 2013, I identified all the quick and dirty regurgitation shortcuts to scoring well in compos. Of course, my students scored. One by one, the MOE removed these shortcuts. I won't hide my dismay when I realised that all my cheats stopped working one by one. Yet, to some extent, I am proud of the MOE. This is the right way to test for true language competence. 

In the past, I never felt strong pride in helping my students score with quick and dirty regurgitation shortcuts. This year, I feel especially proud because (thanks to changes in the way MOE marks compos) these 2 students could take NO shortcuts to their results. These children really can write and think... no regurgitation... no cheats. The cost to the children were as follows...

(1) They pored through every single point of my typewritten compo feedback sheets (sometimes 25 points and 2 typewritten pages long EVERY WEEK.

(2) They addressed every single point of feedback and took care to NOT repeat mistakes.

(3) They conscientiously engaged in the various language therapies I prescribed (some required up to an hour a day from Monday to Friday)

(4) They put up with me rejecting work (compo and compre) for marking because I reckoned that they could squeeze more learning out of that piece if they re-did it with more focus and more effort.

(5) They even put up with having their work thrown into the dustbin because it was work done with little effort.

These 2 gifts come at an exorbitantly high cost to the children in man hours and focused effort. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction because despite the MOE removing all my shortcuts to scoring well, my students have still done well. It feels doubly good also because I know we did not shortcut our way to success.

As a post-script: I also received a gift from the Mother.

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