Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exams Exams Exams


Now that the first exams of the school year are over, let me make some "notes"
No, I am not going to write tips for people who take the exams.
I am going to express my complaints to the situation.
It seems that my job as a foreign language teacher in the private sector in Greece is to prepare people for exams.
And this is not bad from the one hand. I mean, certificates ARE important nowadays, in order to get a job, in order to study abroad, in order to communicate with people from other countries for various reasons.
And it is right to start early in my opinion. Children ARE better receptors of the language, they absorb the language, especially if you make it fun to learn.

What happens in my country, though, is something different.
Most people don't actually learn a language to learn THE language. They don't even care if they will use the language some day. They only care to get the "certificate".
The system in Greece is like that: If you have a certificate and you want to work in the public sector, you get additional points if you have more certificates. No matter how old they are. No matter if you can actually speak the language years afterwards.
So... parents and children AND teachers work towards that...
As a result, you hear things from parents like: "my kid has to "finish" with the language as soon as possible" or "my 12 year old kid has to be proficient in 4 languages - he will need it for a post-graduate  degree!!!"
I have to comment on that....
I am sorry, but you never "finish" with a language.... If you don't continue working on the language, you just don't remember anything after a while...
And I don't really know if the certificates you get at 14 will do you any good if you want to study abroad. No university will accept the ECPE certificate you got 4 - 6 years ago!
I also have to add that the subjects in high level certificates in all languages are not meant to be for teenagers, but for people with general knowledge of the world. This means that children have to try twice as hard to grasp meanings.
Partly it is not the parents' fault. They want to do the best for their children.
Even pressure them a little harder for their own good! I don't blame the parents.
I do blame the teachers though, who work this way.
We are there to teach the language for God shake, not pressure the kids to take exams.
And yes we will lead students to potential exams, but please don't forget that there are so many things we can do to achieve the best results.
We can be so creative, use literature, music, art, make our lessons memorable. That's the way people will remember the language.
Unfortunately I don't work for a hobby, I work for a living and I cannot really afford to lose "clients". I know that these things I say are not likeable to both parents and maybe teachers.
And although I don't like it I do work with test books and vocabulary lists and I have stopped doing projects and I feel that I have lost my creativity.
I hate watching children full of anxiety. I hate stressing children.
I love my job.... Not the exam preparation part, but I love communicating with people. What I am trying to do over here is to be there for the kids, exams or not. To make kids get interested in the language, in the culture, in the world.
Some people do not like that. And I know that I am not irreplaceable. Some people do trust me with their kids though. Mutual trust is what counts.
I want to wish my "kids" lots of success, not only with their results but with their lives. I'll be there! Promise!!

PS. A great post by a really accomplished colleague:
 http://fullspate.digitalcounterrevolution.co.uk/greek-proficiency-mania.html




3 comments:

Marjorie Rosenberg said...

Thanks for this post, I totally agree. Teaching to the test is not teaching, it is showing learners techniques for grades. But whether they can ever use what the learn is questionable. I also prepare students for Cambridge exams (CAE) but we work as well on language, communication, connotation and critical thinking skills, all elements necessary to express what you want to say and not just talk 'about the language.'

Theodora Pap said...

That's what I have been trying to do dear Marjory. I try to use songs, poetry, videos and different kinds of cultural projects but they are usually not accepted in exams classes. I have been replaced several times by parents just because I do not cover 3 or more exam books before the exams. This year I could not afford to actually be "creative" and I did what I was asked. Exam books and vocabulary lists, like all the other teachers I know. I don't really know if my students will pass their exams, I do hope they do. I just feel that I have not done my job correctly.... and I feel I have disappointed myself. My job is to make students be able to use the language. It's really disappointing to see somebody trying so hard and although they have improved, they say that they are not good enough just because they do not reach the exam passing grades

Vasiliki Baliaka said...

...keep going Theodora!