The aging process is very slow except for the occasional harsher moments.
I had one this week when a South African optometrist quietly described how the human eye degenerates over time before telling me I needed varifocal glasses.
The young man at the desk informed me that the “variofocals” would not work on the frame I had selected. I left with two separate pairs against the optometrist’s advice. But I got the message. I’m getting old. I have grown old. My denial is only as superficial as I can get away with (or with my funky frames).
The Department of Education, on the other hand, is slow to pick up on the signs that things are not as they used to be – they just don’t see them.
Explaining the delay in receiving junior cycle results, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) reports that “the number of examiners available to mark the junior cycle exams this year was 1,270 examiners, which is 30% less than the number of examiners who marked the junior cycle exams in 2019. .”
Why is this?
Well, firstly, according to the interviewed teachers, the experience of grading exams is unstable.
Everyone complained that they had too little time for grades. They were usually given about 30 days off and on.
One teacher was most upset by the lack of respect.
“I set aside two days off for a family wedding. I gave a lot of notice and knew I had to get better. On the morning of the wedding, my supervisor called four times. In the end my partner had to answer the call and explain that I wasn’t available, but I still had to text her to stop.’
A newly qualified junior teacher was expected to grade 25 scripts in one day. Marking the Junior Cycle exams, this meant 30 minutes for a two-hour exam.
“I worked from eight to nine in the morning until 10 in the evening. I couldn’t go any faster. It’s not nice to decide that you’re going to do something good because you believe it will be useful, it’s experience and maybe money that just needs to be worked into the ground. I completely lost faith in the system.”
English language examiners pay between €8.36 and €9.29 per Junior Cycle per script depending on level. This comes from five years of university education and many years of classroom experience.
A more experienced teacher was asked to mention 10 students, 20 scripts a day, an English certificate, among the higher paying exams. According to her estimates, she received about 6,000 euros after taxes for her work. This is a significant amount of money for any person. But minimum 12-hour shifts 30 days in a row make it difficult for many people to work. It also follows a significant increase in examiner pay from 17% to 50% per Leaving Certificate script.
She says, “they need to provide some flexibility over time. To work 30 days with such intensity without a break is unbearable. I was able to do that because I don’t have kids, but I still had to look after myself and look after my mental health.’
The teaching profession is predominantly female, and it is known that women bear the burden of care.
An older teacher I interviewed recalls her daughter begging her to stop correcting.
“I took my two children to different camps during the day. I stayed up until two in the morning to meet my quota. At the time, I was getting 100 euros a day after tax for my maths grades.’
My second suggestion is that teachers are giving it up because they are fed up with being humiliated, ignored and killed.
how? Well, there’s the fact that Norma Foley is sabotaging courses by moving exams without any pedagogically sound argument, against the wishes of just about everyone, including the people who write the exams and develop the curriculum.
We now know that schools were unsafe during Covid and people are outraged by this.
There is the fact that Norma Foley announced that teachers would mark 40% of papers for the Leaving Certificate when the unions said they were against it.
Now, I agree with continuous assessment, but simply telling teachers to do it is not the same as being supportive and listening respectfully to legitimate concerns.
The saddest part of all this is that the children suffer the most.
The SEC states that “it is fully responsible to exam candidates to ensure that their work is of the highest quality standard.”
This is understandable. The rest, new glasses or not, seems unclear to me.