This is the time of the academic year when IB teachers have a mix of being both happy and sad. Or maybe these are the wrong terms to use – we are nervous and feeling a little lazy – but teachers know this is an important phase for us to go through.

Nervous. I feel nervous at this time because the exams are VERY close and of course, I am hoping (a terrible word I think!) that the exam allows the students to do as well as they can. And I am aware of course, that historically, within the IB this has not always been the case.

I know that the students have put in a lot of time and for this year’s group, I personally have a very large ability range – so it will be an interesting experience. But they are all capable of achieving a ‘4’ and some up to a ‘7’. They just need to stay focused and not worry when the exam is as hard as I have told them it will be. I hasten to add that this is not ‘inside information’ by the way … I do exam for the IB but do not know the details of the paper – I always tell my students that, no matter how many past exams they have studied, the exams they sit will always be the hardest they have ever seen … such is life! In fact, I have gone further than this, telling them that they ‘want’ a hard exam – the harder the better. This is because the harder the exam, the more emphasis will effectively be placed on the teaching they have received – I just hope they have enough faith in me!! (Yes, I see the flaw in my logic here).

Lazy. This is the really tricky one because it is tough for a teacher to ‘not’ help the students. But they have been given a collection of documents, each with a large number of past exam questions on a particular topic. There is a second document for each of these, with the actual marking schemes – this file is emailed to the students rather than printing it out.

I tell my students to ‘pulse’ their way through the papers – doing 3-4 questions first, then looking at the marking scheme. In this way they will learn from their mistakes and start to see the duplication of questions that exists. If they are stuck, they should check the marking scheme, then ask each other. They should only come to me if none of them can answer the question or understand the answer – I only want to deal with the hardest questions.

While the students plough through these booklets, I will be at the front of the class, working on whatever I need to work on. Hence I feel a little lazy, not because I am not working, but because I am not proactively helping them. But this is all for their benefit – most teachers know (I think) that if you just do questions in front of them, or answer every slightly tough question before they have tried to work through it themselves, the students learn very little – the process of putting pen to paper and ‘trying’ first, is crucial if they are to improve.

So be nervous and be lazy – it is all for the benefit of the students in the end.