Like Scylla and Charybdis, the double bane of the Odyssean wanderer, exam correction is forever twinned with report writing. Is Macbeth deserving of our sympathy? After wading through several dozen variations on the theme, not all of them in standard English, the answer is DEFINITELY NOT.
Is Ned Kelly a hero or a villain? Please ask someone who cares. Time was when the public examiners took out their frustrations on the student body by publishing ‘howlers’. That pillorying those with an insufficient grasp of the curriculum might have equated to institutional bullying seems not to have occurred to those upright judges snorting behind their red biros.
The passing of the annual release of howlers might be unmourned but you still despair when senior students, after a term’s investigation of Hamlet, say, refer to it as ‘tradgedy’. Indeed it is. Plainly, the phonetic trolls hide yet beneath the bridges of the language to trap the unwary. As for ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, it is enough to turn you into a homonymophobe.
You cannot blame the studes entirely. Only last week an ABC journalist reported that a man was ‘laying’ on the road, the only possible response to which was to wonder 1) whether it was a painful experience and 2) what became of the egg?
The correcting teacher is being tested for more than his patience, of course.
How difficult it is not to award an instant A+ to the attentive student (O how the soul do clap its hands and sing) who regurgitates your pearls like the after party of a Roman feast. Conversely, how easy to dismiss the brave formulations of the treasure who persistently gave you grief during the semester.
Finding merit in a text response from the blotchy pen of Tarquin, to take the most egregious example, is akin to straining on a Presleyan impacted mass. Painful. In hell, you may be sure, there awaits the wicked teacher a pile of exam papers perpetually replenished.
Like Prometheus affixed to his rock, the teacher daily anticipates the return of the eagle, ruing that he ever thought to bring the gift of fire to adolescent humanity.
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