I finished marking Grade 12 papers on the 12th of December 2012. I remember the date specifically because it was the last repetitive date of our lifetime (12/12/12) and people made quite a big deal about it. Also, it was quite significant as this historical date reflected the importance of the process of marking Grade 12 papers and playing a small role in determining a child’s future. I am not being sentimental, since every teacher knows that marking is not something you can become sentimental about, but simply want to reflect on my two year’s experience of marking English First Additional Language Paper 1.
I remember feeling irritated and bored on that last day, sitting in the lecture hall waiting for the mark checker to finish checking my work; the irritation coming from the fact that I could only leave after all my scripts were checked and corrected. Still, I understood that this is a necessary step in the process and part of the system that has to ensure that matric papers are marked fairly and accurately to give learners the opportunities they deserve.
It is quite a process too! Even though markers can feel tired and sorry for ourselves with our pink nails (stained by our red pens) and sore backs (caused by the fold down chairs in the lecture hall that are just too far away from the desk), most of us understand that we are not the most important people in this process: the learners are. The markers do moan, even though they’re getting paid for their work, but most markers I have spoken to find some kind of enjoyment out of this process. That’s why in some subjects you will find teachers who have been marking for more than ten years.
Yes, the money is good (in some subjects very good), but the main benefit for me is what I have learnt about my subject and about people during the marking process. As a marker you pick up on details of your subject that you may not have thought of before, or you discover new ways in which you should be teaching your learners certain things. I have also made some friends during this process, teachers from other schools who I would never otherwise have come to know and who have again taught me things about my subject. A colleague of mine who marks Afrikaans always says how they have become like a family in their subject and what a nice atmosphere that is to mark in.
Despite these benefits, there are many pessimistic teachers who say that they would never put themselves through the torture of marking more papers willingly. Even at my own school there are numerous experienced teachers who say that we markers are crazy. This makes me so sad, because I have some really good and experienced colleagues whose expertise would be a real asset to the marking process and thereby the learners of the province.
I know there are also teachers reading this thinking, “what has this girl been drinking?”. To those of you who haven’t marked for the NCS examinations yet, I challenge you to apply in 2013. The application forms will become available on the education department’s website soon. I dare you to prove me wrong!