Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Introspection into Invigilation

This was not the first invigilation duty I did as a TA but after each duty I was left to wonder what this whole monkey business was about. TA’s need to be assigned some work but cant it be something they could benefit from rather policing students who by default were antagonistic to our department because they could never fathom why we existed in their institute. Definitely Humanities department in a technical institute made no sense to them and all our courses were meant to relax them in between their technical courses which worked their brains ( ya they think so, as if Arthashastra and Upanishads are leisure time ). They expected our courses not to make them think hence if any teacher tried being innovative offering assignments that teacher’s T.A would have to waste lot of time googling to hunt the source from where these assignments might be copied. Exams too are expected to be objective in nature (Now imagine assessing professional ethics in objective question format!) .It’s funny to see an ethical dilemma with four options and these fellows playing inky pinky and ticking random. And what would the results reveal A is more ethical than B? If its maths or science it makes sense but ethics? How can an exam ensure he is ethical? All it would ensure is the student has mugged well, his memory is sharp or his luck played well when he was randomly ticking. But in case of any exam rote learning is what it tests; alternative methods of assessments have been a topic of discussion among academicians for ages.

I had an exam duty for English ‘O’ level it was funny, I admit maybe they are good at technology but my experience that day would reveal how poor their communication skills was. A girl smiled at me and asked “madam what does this word mean”? The question read “Describe the changes India has had in the automobile sector over past 50 years ” ? She was asking me the meaning of automobile! I was dumbstruck, I could tell her , it was not a big deal but I was curious and the past week’s reading on Summerhill School and innovative teaching made me ask her can you try guessing what it could mean? She looked at me puzzled, T.A’s either stare or yell or might look insultingly and here was me playing with her , maybe she thought I was mad. I told her again see some part of the word might click divide the word into two and then she said auto is a vehicle are they talking about transport? I smiled and she took the clue. If you think I am exaggerating and this girl is a fool I checked on her after a semester she is doing pretty well. So what’s my point? Am I saying not knowing the meaning of automobile makes a technologist dumb? Definitely not, it makes them look pathetic to me. They always like to think in terms of “hey we are technologists so we are experts in calculus and stuff and not language that’s for you social science people”.

No actually there are many scientists who write well, to cover up one’s weakness one can’t show others down. Forget the language issue sometimes comprehension is very poor, for instance after every exam there would be some who says “madam the paper says use tick mark I did cross will it be a problem” ? Madam I used pencil is that a problem? And I end up thinking would not kids in kindergarten be better. Sometimes multiple instructions frighten them to the extent how to fill a feedback form has to be explained individually in a hall of 60.

Sometimes it’s funny when students ask madam could it be possible we have more than one answer in the multiple choices? I feel all answers are right, some would sleep half the exam and stick to the paper when its time to collect. Throughout the exam you could see blank faces asking you “why the hell am I writing this” ? The most funniest part to me is the starting part of an exam especially when you have questions of different sets , people go sit at back rows in big galleries making it difficult to distribute papers, refuse coming forward and then the regular tug of war” you come forward or I wont start giving the papers” threats by the T.A and the students rebelling pretending deaf. If you think this is my version it’s no different in the physics , chem. Labs.

I often hear T.A’s saying students write on wrong side of the books and explains “I like it this way”, or demand, ‘explain to me separately I didn’t hear when you explained’. Or gets up and leaves saying I am in no mood to do this give me my attendance, or keeps saying I don’t get the readings making the T.A note all the readings.

And the teachers end up discussing how poor the performances are and how companies remark on the qualities after placements, I don’t know about the performance but by the end of the day a comment on an answer sheet like the one below makes me introspect into invigilation.

“ I am an engineer why should I be asked to write about syphilis and ethics is that not for medical students”-

“Sir please give me pass mark”

“ why do you pain us like this ?

As I toss the paper to one side wondering what made him write so, I prepare myself for the next performance …. Students enter the classes lazy, sleepy, unkempt, all set to crack exams and to fight us T.A’s like student protestors waiting to tear down policemen at protests.

I am just an observer of this antagonistic relationship wondering how I transformed from a student to T.A and why wasn’t I like this long time ago.


santiago said...

well...u might not have been compelled to study something you don't like (or understand) at all. i chose compsci in 11th bcoz i didn't like bio. n in 3rd sem they asked me to learn about cells,genetics etc. can u imagine ma situation????? i ended up with a d!!!!!

silentblogger said...

i had to do papers on accountancy, economics, and the great financial management with no commerce background(which all were added to our course as part of syllabus revision exactly the year i joined!!!),when the actual course i enrolled had nothing to do with any of this. i also gave my exam thinking "why i am in this hall??".

Funniest of all is similar to that you pointed out. we had a detailed study of Business ethics. and meaning of the word 'ethics' is still a topic of debate for the majority.