Monday, April 19, 2010

Exam Woes

I hate this. ... What am I doing here? ... What the hell is wrong with everyone?! These is just a selection of my most..diplomatically-phrased thoughts that have been lingering torturously in the forefront of my mind the past few weeks as the first term of the school year coughed and choked to an end, and the exam period sputtered labourously into effect. At the end of last year I was excited to embark upon a second year, drunk on my misguided notions that I had mastered the northern Namibian school system and that this year would be a breeze. In truth however, apart from having a little bit more understanding of the Ovambo culture and language, I've found many aspects of this year more difficult and frustrating than last. This first term exam period has been no exception. In fact, it would not be a drastic exaggeration to say that the past few weeks may have been the most frustrating, exhausting, and maddening conglomerate of responsibilities and events that I can remember.

The real fun started exactly two weeks ago when, in a last-minute staff meeting about nothing in particular, I raised the question of when term exams were set to start. “That is a good question” is the response I was given. And the topic was closed. After pushing the topic the next day I was instructed that, as a member of the timetable committee (one of my largest mistakes of the year thus far) I should set up the timetable immediately, with exams to begin the following Thursday. It was the Thursday before Easter weekend, which meant that it was the last school day of the week and we did not reconvene until Tuesday. Which gave me two days to gather information for all of the subject papers to be written from my colleagues, concoct and type up a timetable, have it checked over, approved and distributed. That may sound reasonable by the standards back home, but keep in mind that this is not back home, and nothing that involves more than two steps here runs seamlessly. Also, many subjects write multiple papers of varying lengths and compositions, so for a class taking nine different subjects they may write between ten and eighteen exam papers. I should bring your attention to the word committee, which suggests more than one individual appointed to a specific function. Not so in this case. That said, I was so proud of myself when, on Tuesday morning, I presented my principal with a draft of the timetable, posted it and distributed it around the staffroom and asked all teachers to check it over for any conflicts. Nothing was brought to my attention, so, after multiple friendly reminders and warnings to the staff I had it approved, finalised and distributed to all of the 19 classes in our school. Exams were commencing in two days. My work was done. I felt like a rockstar for overcoming this mini solo effort with minimal overall frustration. I was a fool. Beginning early Wednesday I had multiple colleagues with multiple problems multiple times a day coming to me about the timetable with inquiries, pleas, judgements and criticisms. Some changes took a quick flick of a pen, others required me to completely reinvent the wheel and restructure the entire timetable. Eventually I got to the point where if a colleague even looked like they were thinking of approaching me I advised them to reconsider. Some of my colleagues were taken by surprise with my blunt refusals to consider their complaints, and vocalised this in both English and Oshiwambo behind my back in front of my face in the staffroom. I couldn't afford to care. I had over 400 exams to mark and didn't have the time, energy or patience to play host to their issues.

Today is the last day of exams and I couldn't be more relieved. There are three days following this in which teachers are to complete their marking and begin creating their class reports. As of yesterday I have finished my marking but, in the name of self-preservation, I will not let on to that and instead will act as if I am marking to the last minute, like everyone else. There is a static stack of miscellaneous papers on my desk that, if anyone asks, is my unfinished marking. Also, in the name of self-preservation, I am seriously contemplating tendering my resignation to the timetable committee, effective immediately; and in my spare time am sadistically plotting my revenge for the poor soul in charge of the term 2 timetable.

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