The other day I noticed the fun I experienced marking students’ work when I chose to remain open, relaxed and connected to what they were learning. I opened myself up to see beyond what the curriculum requirements were, and was instead assessing the level of connection I made with each student.
For as long as I can remember I had always thought marking needed to be done quickly and was a burden on my teaching time. The piles were never-ending and the pace with which marking was done was fast, with little regard for the student and their work. Darting around the classroom in order to mark the work before I began another set of teaching instructions felt like the norm.
The levels of exhaustion I experienced made me feel racy and there was no connection with the students or with their work. I gave little consideration to how I could support them to go to the next stage of learning, or to consolidate their current levels of learning.
The teaching phase was fun and by far the most enjoyable stage. I would introduce the topic and get the ball rolling with practical examples and engage the children in each step. The children would share and laugh whilst learning. Everyone was focused and the learning was meaningful, relevant and there was a sense of ease in which this was done. Every lesson was simple and the children were part of the teaching rather than doing all the learning. This unfortunately was lost once I moved to the marking mode. I could feel my relaxed and open body turn into a hard machine, ready to race through the assembly line of paper marking.
When I made the choice to stop and connect more to the steady pace in which I was teaching, I noticed there was no need to go into the overwhelm of what the idea of assessing and marking brings to teaching.
The playful interactions that took place with the simple daily over the shoulder marking made me realise how much the students enjoyed the ‘one to one’ connection they were receiving. Every interaction with a child was simple and varied, according to what they needed:
A supportive hand on the shoulder…
A playful gentle tap on the head …
A tender touch of the hand…
A knowing glance of ‘you’ve got it’…
A cheeky wink to say… yep! …. You’re on the right track.
With this way of marking their work came a deeper level of understanding about how the children crave this connection and wait patiently for their turn. I could feel them nuzzle into their chairs, brushing gently past my arms as I began to mark. Their eyes were open and engaged in what I had to share. They talked more and their voices had a giggling tone that invited more connection. They were not disappointed or hard on themselves if they didn’t fully understand the teaching concept, as they knew the support was always there.
Marking and assessing can be a task that overwhelms and overloads but with that comes a fall in the quality of connection that the children are clearly receptive and open to.
Assessing how to connect to a student is what true marking is about. When we assess what is needed at each moment the marking becomes simple, fun and straightforward.
By Anonymous, Teacher, Mentoring Teacher and Program Facilitator, Australia
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Thanks Anonymous, I love how you describe the openness of the children and their delight in being truly met by you in the process of marking their work. It goes to show that any task can be joyful if we see it has an opportunity to deepen our connection to one another.
This is a great blog and to be shared with all teachers. The marking of work can often feel like a judgement especially with the connection not felt with the person first.
I know as a child when I got a red pen strike through my lovely work it felt harsh and critical.
Almost as though the teacher had to make a ‘correction’ to show they had looked at it.
When ‘marking’ becomes ‘connecting’ then true education is awakened. ✨
What you describe here anon is a powerful way to observe and engage in life by assessing our own commitment to life in terms of the quality of our connections with self and others. A shift in focus from delivering curriculum solely aimed at preparing us for certain careers or how to pass assessments to continue in higher education, might mean education could confirm our naturally innate skills of connection and feeling life.
“Assessing how to connect to a student is what true marking is about. When we assess what is needed at each moment the marking becomes simple, fun and straightforward”.
Beautiful anonymous, so simple yet a powerful way to connect with and engage students. I loved reading about how you came to this awareness and how you transformed your marking and assessment methods.
A truly beautiful article highlighting the power of connection and the difference it makes to learning… and an absolute pleasure to read. Having not experienced this at school myself I can only imagine how bringing this level of care into the classroom would have supported me and my willingness to learn. Kids are suffering in the disconnection that comes with a currently non person-centred educational system, so there is no doubt that the world needs more teachers willing to do this.
Thanks Anon for showing how we can bring fun and playfulness into the classroom through all aspects of our work.
The way you describe how you were with the children Anonymous, really reflects the importance of true connection with the children and how that true connection holds them and allows them the space to be more themselves in a much more natural way, unimposed by expectation or control and more able to connect with their abilities where there is no struggle or trying. That way we all get to experience what each other brings naturally, which is what its all about.
Education should be all about connection and just that who needs to know their times tables back to front and inside out if we have true connection with ourselves and others life will always flow and be abundant. At the end of the day life needs to be about evolution not stagnant education that delivers us very short of our true capabilities.
As part of my job I take classes and do 1hr workshops in schools with young people which I love. I fully respect teachers and the job they do, it can be really hard and challenging work but also really rewarding. It is great that you went with what you felt and to do the marking in the same way you do the teaching.
The most memorable teachers I had at school and university were the ones that truly connected which made learning a joy.
How different it is when the children feel part of what is happening rather than being on the receiving end of judgment, comparison and competition. This is a beautiful example of knowing already that the children are all they need to be and the amazingness is being lived from within. Thanks Anonymous for sharing your expanded understanding of this new way of marking – it is clear that you have expanded and grown through the experience also
Gorgeous, what a change up to the normal rush mark. I can just imagine the stress teachers are under to mark all the work to a certain time frame and to the curriculum. Rather then engaging with the students and supporting them full throttle.
Thank you Anon, I love your way of teaching and interacting with the children, making class fun interesting , your connection to the children is so beautiful and supportive to each child. So different to my long ago school days, where there was much anxiety about getting it wrong and the results that would follow.
I can feel the beautiful connection from were you are with the children and it reminds me of my schooltime were I experienced it very differently. It was all done without any true connection or being seen for who you are. And also the touch by a teacher on your shoulder is what felt often terrible as you could feel the sexual energy coming with the touch.
Thank you anonymous for sharing this with us. You actually expand on the actually true meaning, not always lived, of teaching.. How it is not about results but about connection.. How it is not about doing good or right, but having fun.. Etc. Etc. I love how the truth of education is being explored here, and for us here to expand..
I feel that marking work is much like reflecting on the outcomes of our choices and I know that for me sometimes this is something that I too want to rush or ignore but in truth there is so much I can learn from doing this.
I can very much connect to what you share here Anonymous, I always longed for the connection with teachers, as I knew that was the best way to learn. I can see the burden that teachers often find the marking and assessing the work, and I find it great to read how you changed and came to see that it is about connection. And that is what is lacking in education in the present time.
Unfortunately our education system has become focussed on the results and the ‘doing’, so it’s inspiring to read about how you are in the classroom and with your students and the positive impact this must have on them if they feel they have been truly met and listened to. Well done.
True learning comes not from knowledge, but from connection.
How wonderful that you were able to feel the difference in your body in the two scenarios: “I could feel my relaxed and open body turn into a hard machine, ready to race through the assembly line of paper marking.”, and then choosing to make the choice to return to feeling relaxed and open as you began to mark. The children certainly would have been able to feel the difference, as evidenced by their responses; such a beautiful lesson for you all, one that I am sure will ripple on into your lives.
What stood out for me whilst reading this blog was how the children will pick up on everything the teacher is going through and how they will know that the teacher does not enjoy that part of their job. Imagine if all of the teachers took on board what you have shared how different schooling would be.
This turns the education system on it’s head. We are so conditioned to need to ‘get things right’ and to feel stupid or silly if we don’t get great marks. By teachers remaining open and using marking and assessment as an extension of their teaching, we can hold an entirely different relationship with learning, and also ourselves.
I love this line, Anonymous – “the children were part of the teaching rather than doing all the learning” as I can feel how you honour what each child can bring, and by connecting in this lovely way with them, marking has become about them and not getting the job done. How blessed they are to have such a loving teacher who is taking responsibility for the quality of their being in the classroom each day.
Anonymous, its interesting to read this, ‘The piles were never-ending and the pace with which marking was done was fast, with little regard for the student and their work.’ I can relate to this at work, after working in a very loving, steady, calm way with my clients, when Its time to feel in the activity log i rush through this, scribbling and getting an achy hand and arm as a result, this feels really unloving and unsupportive for me and my clients, i can feel how loving it is to see everything as equally important and to stay present and calm consistently, thank you for writing this and i look forward to experimenting with lovingly and calmly filing in my paperwork.
Anonymous introduces to us the fact that to assess a persons work can be about the learning and expanding that they have experienced, and how assessments do not have to be about a marked or judged criteria. This is so important in the development of ourselves as global citizens, because as we learn about the value of ourselves as people, not needing to reach a certain mark and just being accepted for who we are, then we can grow in to adults who are less likely to condemn and judge others, holding everyone with that same and equal regard. This is the path back to unity amongst humanity, with teachers like Anonymous working and serving in the classroom.
A fascinating blog. The difference just in the way you write about the classroom marking shows so much space opening up as you come to value the interaction with the students, and appreciate what they get from the interaction, rather than being overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. This child centric approach feels just gorgeous, as they are met (right or wrong) and you get the opportunity to connect to them.
It is astounding that teachers basically have to fight for enough time in order to connect with their pupils. I like your approach which was to listen to your body, value what it was telling you and chose to do something differently. That way you created space, which is time to connect with the children and the work they had done and bring joy back into marking. This to me is true teaching.
What a lovely article! I could feel you walking around the class connecting with all the children. It is great to see that when we make it about connection first, the marking afterwards is just a way of developing where there is no right or wrong only learning. When the connection is there, love is felt, and the marking won’t be felt as critique because in the connection it is shown you accept them just the way they are.
Great article on connecting to students whatever we do, teaching or marking. A level playing field awash with equality and true joy, the joy of connecting with another/others. And no exhaustion in sight!
What an awesome ripple affect this had on the children you teach Anonymous, as when they receive back their marks, they are not being handed back in the pressure, drive and overwhelm that was your previous experience, but in the grace of staying connected with you and in turn with them. Maybe this is where some of the high expectations and pressure children put them selves under comes from. Not having this, makes way for an enjoyable and freeing learning experience for all.
“Assessing how to connect to a student is what true marking is about.” -connecting to a student, the person is also what true teaching is about.
Assessing and marking is the school-sanctioned way for teachers to connect with *every* student. What an opportunity to connect.
What a gift of confirmation you bring to these young people Anonymous! Teachers are perfectly positioned to offer this confirmation almost every day to a child., building foundations and supporting a child’s sense of self appreciation- a priceless gift!
Marking in this way is a great way to ‘mark’ the connection between student and teacher, that allows the teacher to also assess much more than the test or task that is being assessed.
“Assessing how to connect to a student is what true marking is about.” Absolutely and then education would be transformed into pure joy for all.
To an outsider, marking feels like a chore, devoid of the personal interactions that happen in face to face teaching, done at home, away from all distractions. To mark work in the presence of a child, making it playful, affectionate, confirming, feels a more powerful way to enhance each child’s learning.
I love your list of some of the ways you interact with the children. It feels so natural and makes perfect sense. Most adults would respond equally as well to interactions of this nature.
“The other day I noticed the fun I experienced marking students’ work when I chose to remain open, relaxed and connected to what they were learning. I opened myself up to see beyond what the curriculum requirements were, and was instead assessing the level of connection I made with each student.” This is pure gold – a living, breathing and a real example of how powerful and what an amazing difference connection brings to everyday living.
It blows me away to stop and feel the enormous wisdom that is shared just by simply reading the title of your blog.
This blog is a great reminder that we do not have to do everything by rushing and focusing on what needs to be done but instead focus on the quality we are doing it. I often catch myself getting caught up in drive and doing and feel the impact on my body but when I connect to the quality of what I am doing I can feel my body say thank you.