Your teacher is your resource

Recently, there was a thread discussion on BOS about teachers being a student’s best resource. This is something I definitely agree on, so I’m very surprised when some students don’t even think about going to their teachers for help. Sometimes, they go straight to their tutor!

Why ask my teacher?

  • Generally, they have years of experience in teaching the subject/text.
  • Some teachers have subscriptions/access to resources that you can’t just ‘find on the internet’. Often my students have shown me notes provided by their teachers, which are actually really good and I haven’t seen before.
  • Your teacher is going to be one of the markers for your internal school assessments. As much as there are marking guidelines, marking English may come down to subjectivity. You should try, as much as possible, to fully understand what your teacher/marker is looking for.
  • Attending class is compulsory, so you might as well make the most of it!

What should I ask my teacher for help with?

1. Can you please review my draft and provide some feedback?

Ask your teacher to review your draft, providing comments and an indication of what range of mark you would get. It is critical that you do this throughout the school year, as you need to keep revising/improving your draft up to the absolute final time that you will be writing it (the HSC).

Generally, for the first assessment or assignment (e.g. the Belonging speech/assessment), teachers will not review your draft. However, after this time, you should ask for a review, so that you can improve on the first set of exams, Trials and then the HSC. Once you receive feedback, ask your teacher questions if you don’t understand what they have said/written. It may seem obvious, but correct/improve your work based on the feedback (it’s astounding sometimes how students receive feedback, but then do nothing to incorporate that feedback).

After reworking your draft, re-submit it to your teacher for review again. You can repeat this process, but here are a few key points:

  • PROOF your own work. You need to proofread and edit your own work. Your teacher is NOT there (especially in Advanced English+) to correct all the grammar, spelling and punctuation issues in your draft for you. In fact, if it’s clear that you have not even proof read or edited your work (that you’ve put minimal effort into your work), why should your teacher bother wasting time correcting mistakes that you should correct yourself? Obvious errors also get in the way of a teacher’s reading/assessment of your writing. How can they focus on providing critical feedback on things like thesis, ideas, sophistication of writing, addressing the rubric, sufficient textual analysis etc, when you’re writing demonstrates that you can’t even construct a sentence properly or spell?
  • USE your teacher’s feedback. You need to really incorporate your teacher’s feedback and revise your work accordingly, before re-submitting it. It is really frustrating for teachers (and tutors) when they spend an hour reviewing your essay and then receive another request for feedback a week later, with a draft that shows you haven’t read anything that they’ve read or fixed up the errors they’ve pointed out. I mean, what’s the point in providing feedback then?
  • If possible, for your draft essay, use a practise essay question and provide it to your teacher along with your draft. This allows your teacher to also provide feedback on how you’ve answered the question. Did you engage well enough with the question? This is one of the critical things that differentiates the strong essays from the weak ones, according to the HSC Markers’ Notes.

2. Can you please provide some feedback on this assessment and explain why I got X out of X?

When I’ve taught a few students in the past, I’m astounded by the fact that, when they receive a B or C range mark for their assessment, they don’t ask for feedback from their teacher. That’s one of the first things I ask them, “Did your teacher provide feedback?” No. “Have you asked your teacher for feedback?” No.

Students really need to take the initiative, by asking their teacher to provide feedback on the assessment. Where did I go wrong? What can I do next time to try to get an A range mark? Not only do you get important feedback, but you show your teacher that you’re engaged – you WANT to improve and try harder. Many teachers will not bother giving you feedback or additional assistance, if you act like you don’t care, you aren’t going to bother and you aren’t going to try improving. Why bother trying to help a sinking ship?

On the other hand, if you show your teacher that you care, then in most cases they will reciprocate.

3. I’m thinking of doing X as my related text. What are your thoughts?

Check your related text with your teacher at the outset. I really discourage you from going to your teacher and just asking, “Oh what should I do for my related text?” That’s just lazy. You haven’t even thought about it for yourself. If your teacher is bothered, they will  spoon feed you a related text or give you a list. But it’s best if you at least attempt to find one yourself.

If they knock you back (your related text is not suitable), at least you get an idea of what would be suitable – and you can follow it up with “Oh ok, is there any text that you would suggest then?”

4. Can you please give me a list of the texts we’ll be doing this year?

A lot of students seem to be unaware of what texts they are doing until they actually start them. You should really try to get ahead and find out what those texts are, so you can read up on them ahead of time (during the school holidays).

The real benefit, however, is to let your tutor (if you have one) know what your texts for the HSC year are. I often ask my students this at the beginning. This gives tutors time to read the text (if they haven’t previously tutored it etc), gather some resources and analyse the text. If you wait until you actually start your text, you leave your tutor with no forewarning and if they haven’t tutored it before, you guys could be learning the text/module at the same time! What’s the point in that?

But what if my teacher is useless?

This is a rather unusual complaint (I hope). Most teachers should be adequate. Perhaps they seem useless, because they don’t see their students putting in any effort (so why should they?) or engaging. If that’s the case, you should try to be one of the few students who DOES engage – ask questions, request feedback, really value your teacher’s opinion. Think about it, if you are the only one in your class (of thirty students) who is actively trying and has your teacher’s attention, you’re almost getting private tuition right there!

Unfortunately, it can also be the case that your class is engaged, but teacher just doesn’t care or lacks the requisite knowledge. In this case, you may have to consider hiring a tutor or switching classes.

Have many students encountered this issue?

Are there any teachers who want to provide some insight?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *