I just had to. Simply couldn’t help myself. Here, hastily and with minimum second-drafting, is a small story about one of my students.

Marie at work

It’s 10:00 and Marie, one of my IB2 students now in the throes of mock exams, is sitting quietly in my room revising for the upcoming highlights of mock exams. No, I don’t know what subjects she is revising…it could be for the economics exams tomorrow…it could be French or Biology. All I know is that she needed some “sanctuary” from the interminable frolicking amongst the IB2s that all too often takes the place of serious exam preparation.

She came by early this morning to find me sitting at my desk doing whatever it is that we teachers do in the hour before our day starts – in my case putting together data about proportion of cars in China and China’s percentage of global traffic fatalities (2% and 15% respectively). With the banter and inevitable politeness of mature young French ladies, she asked for “political asylum” in my room in the off chance I had a few free periods during mock exams. I run a very open-door policy and for any student willing and able to put in extra time there are no closing hours. I told her that I was free for periods two and three and that she could come by any time.

End of class and kids are filing out. Quiet knock on the door, Marie is standing there with a smile – and a cookie. “The cafe doesn’t sell wine, can you believe it!?” Exaggerated expressions of mockery from us both aimed at the on-going political correctness virus sweeping the world as she set up her books and other implements of revision while I scarfed my cookie.

Marie at her pile of books while I am trying to fill in IB forms for Internal Assessment on the computer…and I started thinking about correlation. Is there correlation between the frequency of students showing up in classrooms to study in “off-hours” and their grades? One would hope so, but, being me, I checked. The answer is YES, a big yes.

Now, it should be said that I send the occasional (three or four times a week) acerbic and sarcastic email to choice colleagues about student habits – often in the form of simple Y and X axis diagrams where I put, for example:

  • “Percentage of attendance” on the X-axis and  “Predicted grades” on the Y-axis (positive correlation, r-value around 0.7)
  • “Proximity to mocks” on X-axis and “Attendance of failing students” on Y-axis (negative correlation, r-value around 0.9)

A quick plot diagram – very quick as I want Marie to read this before I dare publish it – based on input from three colleagues in the humanities faculty shows remarkable positive correlation between students showing up for quiet and unsupervised revision in our open classrooms and predicted grades. Note: I say nothing about causality, i.e. if increased use of free periods for quiet study causes higher IB predicted grades…or vice versa! That is something one cannot do off the cuff.

Yet I simply must comment on the respect teachers feel for students having the discipline, foresight and intent of purpose to use the sanctuary provided by teachers’ classrooms as places to study. Increasingly I would like to see this, well, “institutionalised”, for want of a better term. A classroom is a mixture of both resources and comfort zone – students should want to come to the quiet, focused yet comfortable area provided by earnest teachers.

You students must realise that we teachers want to both like and respect you as this makes it far easier for us to go the extra mile when you need us to. Coming to our classrooms for unobtrusive and focused studying inevitably lends weight to both friendship and respect – making both our jobs easier.

I put forward – posit, if you will – that a group of students using teachers’ rooms during agreed-upon free periods for study/revision will lead to higher grades for students and increased teaching efficiency for teachers.

Experiment anyone?