Monday, February 06, 2006

Don’t Question Me About Questions.

Last weekend, I finally finished making all the question paper sets for all the classes I take. I teach Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Final exams will start pretty soon. I finally typed and got the prints of all the question paper sets. As I held them in my hands, I closed my eyes, trying to imagine myself as that omnipotent deity in whose hands lie the future of some 200 students. I know that I am exaggerating, but that is what this post is all about. The way some people have been exaggerating and overestimating my power and considering me omnipotent these days.

With the final exams coming, it seems that suddenly the children and their moms have been galvanized into action. Everyday I have some of those moms meeting me after school and trying to get hints about the questions. Considering my profession and my age (I just turned 24.5 recently), I am considered a kid here. So when the moms had initially seen a kid teaching in higher classes, they made no secrets of their skepticism (The dads were okay about it though). Allow me to digress a bit from the main content of this post. I actually had some of those pain-in-the-ass moms asking me stuff like-

Pehli naukri hai? Isse pehle kahaan padhaya hai? Educational qualification kya hai? Kaun se college se pass kiya hai? Kis year mein (that was to roughly calculate my age)? Aap to teacher lagti hi nahi hain, etc.

I have to deal with such finicky moms. So for the exams, all the necessary instructions have been given to the students. All the chapters are equally important. Numericals in physics are a must. In chemistry, equations have to be balanced. In mathematics, the entire book would be covered. Diagrams are important wherever applicable. Sums have to be with the proper units. Questions can be set from anywhere in the chapter. And so on and so forth.

Yet I have had moms coming and asking me ridiculous things like-

Kahaan se questions dengi? Chapter ke peeche se? Maths mein wahi questions aayenge ya values ghuma fira ke? Experiments padhna padega? Work book se questions aayenge? Please HEAT waala chapter include mat kijiye. Numericals kitne marks ke aayenge? Chapters ke beech mein highlighted portions important hain? Hydrochloric acid ko hydrochloric acid likhna hai ya HCl? Back questions karne se ho jaayega?

And the volley of questions continue. I’ll spare you the details (for my own sanity actually).

But I’ll share an interesting episode. One of the moms actually told me (with the son standing right in front of us, and old enough to understand everything) ..... Madam, mujhe itni tension ho rahi hai final exams ke liye, hormonal imbalance ke liye mere periods irregular ho gaye hain. Please kuch important questions bataa dijiye.

All I could do was stare stupidly at the mom, and the boy. God, couldn’t she have chosen a more apt excuse for her gynecological problems? Or for asking the questions?

I don’t understand what’s the big deal in performing well in the final exam. Just listen to the class properly, study the chapter from A to Z, practice the sums and diagrams, do the numericals, and that’s it. How does it matter whether chapter ke peeche se questions aayenge ya beech mein se? As long as the questions are relevant, how does it matter?

I wouldn’t claim that I've never been stressed during the exams. I would often ponder and wonder what questions would come. But these people have suddenly made a God out of me. If I happen to meet my children in the corridor, I would definitely know the expression in their eyes, urging me to divulge some kind of hints about the question paper. I would explain every sum from the chapter, discuss the type of questions and the expected answers, but would not give a single hint about the actual questions I've set.

So as I held those bunch of question papers in my hands, I tried to imagine how powerful I was and what amount of respect I could be commanding at that point of time.

don’t understand what is so great about exams? It is just a school final exam. What’s so powerful about these few sheets of paper that I can inspire such awe? Give sleepless nights to so many even sans my age and experience? I wish I knew the answer to this. 



Jeevan Baretto said...

Arre madamji, simple questions set karo.. guess what, we 've got teachers who wants to set the toughest of all questions during our final end sem exams...

I am not saying, its wrong to set a tough paper but at the same time marking should be very lenient. What would a teacher gain by not giving proper marks..
I would like to tell you abt an incident which happened in our col recently. After the 6th sem end sem exams, many of my friends couldn't sit for a company just cos their aggre was 59.90 and not 60 %..

now what i am tryin to tell you is that.. no matter what you u teach in the class.. but set the paper keeping in mind the interest of the whole class..!! i might be sounding a bit too harsh.,. but being a student its a different thing alltogether..

Nice post anyways..

Bharat Sharma said...

Hi Sunshine,

Your blog is recommended to me by my pal. To be honest on the very first thought i had this "Huh? What's there in it?" in my mind. However when i read the post i have to admit i read it in one gulp.

Though i have seen bad teachers a lot in my short quarter century life. I have enjoyed the company of some of the best mentors. And i sincerely admire Mr. Kalam for the noble thankless job he is doing in the nation.

And I have only five words for you.

"Just Keep up the good work".

oops that were 6. :)

Please don't deduct my 10 marks ;)

Bharat Sharma

Sassy One said...

I guess parents are the same no matter the country!

Nag said...

I agree with you. Setting questions relevant to the chapter I mean. But one question that I always ponder over is why questions in the exams are sometimes tough. I don't think questions prepared for a student who is still in the school can be tough. What I mean is one will give examples, or the questions from the text book, or question with different values or question from any chapter anywhere in the book but which are already taught. But when it comes to some engineering kinda thing the questions can be offbeat. There professors expect that you have made detailed analysis of the topic either in the classroom or at home and you have got the concepts right and you know everything in depth and you have got the problem solving skills. But in schools, first of all students should have desire or some motivation to learn things. Otherwise a teacher has to make sure that students got the concepts right and also make these indepth analyses. And I guess students feel it tough when they only know that they have to apply some formula and even when they know formulas they may still face problems because it might not be clear to them which formula to apply for the given problem. Some times the sheer length of the problem is enough to scare the hell out of them( I was also a student in the past). And the only solution I see is one has to live with the topic for sometime till he gets the hang of it. And I feel this must be done in the school itself. After coming home I always felt, no not again, no that gobbledygook not at home also. This is how I felt sometimes. Othertimes, whic are interesting subjects I would read them with out complaining. So I think it makes sense for students like me to expect the questions those which are taught and nothing else. No, not even a slightest deviation. No test for my thinking skills unless I know it, I just want those minimum skills to be tested when i don't know it.

sunshine said...

To all-

Thank you for all the comments. As far as questions and exams go, I am a very linient teacher. I never give stuffs from outside the syllabus merely to test their funda. I am quite linient in marking as well, I try to gime them as much of marks as is reasonably possible. I discuss every answer, check every copy, take tests, etc. Guess there is nothing more that I could do.