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Thursday, May 07, 2009

To test is life!


Once more we are gripped by the convulsions of examination fever – all self induced by the ethos of the educational institution in which I am at present residing. I have been 33% of an exam writing team before now with the youngest pupils, but, with good behaviour, I have graduated to 50% of the effort.

I must admit that I had completely put out of my mind the fact that I was supposed to produce various questions for the equivalent of Year 9 – though they look very much older than their British equivalent. Therefore the casual question I was asked this morning was a little disturbing. This related to our getting together to put the examination paper, well, together.

Needless to say, by the time we actually did meet I had reams of paper on which questions of breathtaking erudition and wit were scattered. I even included five questions about a grammatical point which had to be included and which I didn’t really understand. When the question writing frenzy is upon you such things are as nothing.

When we finally united our efforts the length of the proposed paper gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘Lifelong Learning’ and it took the swift and practised pen of the head of English to cut swathes through our work and produce an easily digestible paper for the poor pupils to groan and sweat their way through tomorrow.

Their efforts are going to be a little more painful as the head of English has cut out small clues to the correct words and phrases that I left in, so the candidates will have to dig deep to find the appropriate archaic phrases which are beloved by their examination board!

Merely because it is a grotesque and possibly racist simplification to assert that the Spanish do not listen to anyone and do not read instructions is hardly going to stop my saying it. You only have to look at what is laughingly designated a ‘discussion’ programme in this country to see that half a dozen people simultaneously shouting at each other does not really fit such a definition.

Teachers are encouraged to say everything three times so that a class can go through the normal process of 1) noticing that you are speaking 2) realising that you are trying to tell them something 3) actually listening to what you have to say. This ‘three step’ approach is woefully inadequate in this country. It is probably more helpful if you think of the TV sketch where someone tries to explain to an old British officer left behind in the jungles after the war that the conflict is actually over. It simply doesn’t get through; rather like information being relayed to a class in Catalonia!

But they generally lack the hard edge that you find in British schools so it is fairly easy to forgive much. And they are friendly. Whenever I progress (that really is the only word for it) I am assailed on every side by children calling my name. I wave regally in a way reminiscent of a shared memory from my mother who was visited in school by that redoubtable dowager Queen Mary and who sometimes demonstrated that august personage’s progress along the corridors and in the classes.

Still nothing has been said about a future contract and I can’t help feeling the more I look inquisitively at the directora; the more she doesn’t look at me!

On the other hand, the bursar has said that he is going to phone Madrid to find out the progress the department of education is making on registering my qualifications. Disturbingly, one of my colleagues at lunch today said that she sent off her documentation two years ago. After one year she received a letter telling her that her documentation was insufficient and that they were not going to recognize her status. The following year has been taken up with the appeal process! Not encouraging. Though I have been told that showing willing in sending off the documentation is taken as proof of process and that will keep the school authorities quiet for a number of years.

Still, it has only been a couple of months for me – and if I get restive, then I only have to cast my mind back to the fiasco of my CRB check to realise that bureaucracy is only as good as the bureaucrats administering it!

The present situation is little improved. Large gifts are still needed before I dare make my way to Terrassa for the Lunch of the Three Birthdays.

God help us all!
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