My favourite student of this academic year has her exams on Monday and Tuesday next week, and it has been an uphill struggle. Not least of all because I've had to spend far more time than I'd like unteaching some of the rubbish that her college teacher has been telling her. I'm at the point where I'm starting to doubt that this person even has a chemistry degree. If you're in the middle of a lesson and you ask your teacher a question about what they're teaching, shouldn't they be able to answer it? Maybe not immediately - we all have momentary brain farts, and sometimes a student will go way past the syllabus into the stratosphere and you have to try to think through what you know to give them an answer. But if you're teaching acid-base equilibria and a student is confused about the expression for Ka, it shouldn't even require thought. Let alone a flounce and "You know, you can't expect me to know all the answers immediately". Also, the college hasn't come close to finishing teaching of the syllabus. They're supposed to spend 135 hours on the core and 44 hours on the options, and while I don't know how long they spent on the core, I know they've only spent about 15 hours on the options. They only started teaching the option during the Easter holiday! (Yes, the students had to come in for extra lessons!). The whole thing has been one unmitigated disaster and I have been advising all of my younger students and their parents to Avoid That College Like The Plague.
Anyway. Tonight R gave me an exam paper to mark that seemed quite good. I was pleased with her answers, especially to the longer, harder questions at the end, which she had previously been too terrified of to even attempt. When I calculated the percentage and checked the mark against the examiners' report, I found it was in the level 4-5 range, which is what she needs for university. Considering that she started at level 2, this is a huge improvement. When she left to cycle home I phoned her mother to tell her how well she's doing. Of course, I don't know what will happen on the exam day, and grades can never be certain until you have the official letter. But I am confident that she will do orders of magnitude better than she would have if I hadn't worked with her. The fact that I get to work with students and see this improvement in them makes my job - sometimes, even my very existence - worthwhile.