The SNA apocalypse….

This time of year tends to be super angsty. Stress of exams, marking exams, writing reports about exams, exams, EXAMS, EXAMS. It is really easy to get caught up in it, and certainly before exams I was spiralling into a sort of bitter education is soooo broken and I am doing nothing to fix it mindset. And it didn’t help when I did have students who have left papers blank. Except that it was easy as marking 🙂

Thankfully, I have come to my senses around trying to make the most of it, and also trying to be positive for my students has helped me see some of the positives of the systems we have and the way I have taught them this year.

So my question to myself and the world at large is

Why the hell do we give a toss about SNA’s?

Before the September 1st deadline, I talked to all of my senior students about their choices for the NCEA externals. A couple where confident they only wanted to attempt 1 or 2 papers – one yr 11 because she LOATHES chemistry, another because he has dyslexia and he felt he could do better in just the 2 papers with more time to prep and to work through the papers in the exam. A level 3 student in my mixed class has also opted to do 2 standards, but as he wants to do Chem next year he is still doing the learning for aqueous Chemistry (my heart is singing at this) but feels with the lack of direct L3 revision support and his other comittments he would be best to just get the 2 standards in the exam.

For each of these students I sent an e-mail home that was cc’d into the Dean and the HoD outlining that there student would not be entered for the reasons discussed, and to please talk with the student in their care about this choice and to get back to me if there were any concerns. I also checked with the form teachers about how many credits the students had because if they were in danger of not getting enough for NCEA, I didn’t want to remove them.

But many students were not sure about what they wanted to do. So I left them in. My mantra was ‘I value you more as people than exam stats’. I will wear the SNA’s if it is in your best interest and you are not sure.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. An SNA is a wasted opportunity, there is no doubt about it. An SNA in a practice exam is REALLY frustrating – as you can not provide any feedback for students if they have not attempted it.

But from a students point of view, an SNA is prioritising. Partly realising they do not need to do all the things, and so choosing the standards they need or enjoy more, or even if it is only find easier, who cares. One of my own personal issues is I don’t know what to leave out. I always feel I should do all the things (and do end up doing most of them) which is not always a healthy thing to do.

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I also think back to my old exams. I would often run out of time. This meant try as I might, I was never going to get the super top marks…. and I didn’t have the option to not do bits. If I was doing NCEA, you can bet a whole lot I would be getting 2E’s and then maybe an SNA or an A (an M if I was lucky!!) because getting through 3 big standards in 3 hours just wasn’t doable for me then.

So for my stats for this years exams, I suspect I am going to have a high load of SNA’s. And if questioned, I will reply – I supported the students to do what was best for them. I wanted to leave their options open. I encouraged them to prioritise their exam prep and time. I also made the learning a priority rather than the exam. And too damn bad if you think otherwise.

So thanks kids for reminding me you don’t have to do everything. That it isn’t about the exams. I will try harder to remember next year.

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