Ethics lesson – surprising chaotic

Reading time: 5 minutes

Ethics: schoolyard
Early morning in the schoolyard …

LIFE STORIES As I’m entering the ethics room, I have no idea how crazy this lesson is going to be. I haven’t expected that there has been a small problem with the assessment of our last exam and that this problem would lead to so many funny moments.

It’s Friday, 7:07 am. I am standing in the east courtyard of our school waiting for the bell to ring for the first lesson. Vini and Philip are coming from the bus. It’s a good thing for them that their bus is comparatively late, while I stand outside in the cold for 10 minutes every morning before classes start. Well, at least that’s how I wake up.

With a distance of about 1.5 metres (Corona!), the two of them are standing in front of me. “Well, fancy some ethics?” Philip is asking. “Good morning to you too,” I’m replying. “And yes, of course I’m in the mood for ethics.” It’s ironic. Normally we’re all not particularly motivated before the first lesson. “We get the ethics exam back,” I’m saying. Philip is laughing. “Oh yeah, it’s about time.”

The grade list

10 days earlier. We have free period again. I’m sitting with Lisa in the common room. “We can pick up our ethics grades today,” she’s reminding me. “Right!” My heartbeat is speeding up. I didn’t feel good about writing the paper. “Do you know where we can find Ms Koch?”, I’m asking Lisa. Mrs Koch is supposed to have the list with our exam marks and also the final marks. Our actual ethics teacher, Mrs Lind, has been ill for several weeks. The problem is: Friday is the deadline for grades. So there is not much time left.

“I have German with Mrs Koch now,” Lisa is bringing me back to reality. “Oh good,” I’m replying, “then I’ll come with you straight away.” We’re entering Lisa’s German room. For a moment I have to get my bearings. So many year members whose faces I don’t all recognise at first glance. “Oh, Maja,” Mrs Koch is saying. She still knows me from the last sports class. “You’ve come for the ethics marks?” “Yes.” “So” – she’s scanning the list – “that would be 14 grade points in the exam and 13 grade points in total.” Oh! I have to collect myself for a moment.

I’m nodding. “Yes, thank you.” On my way to the door, I’m whispering to Lisa, who is by now standing at her seat, “14 points! Good luck to you.” I myself am amazed at the 14 grade points, which is an even A after all. I definitely didn’t expect that.

Happiness and disappointment

Back to the present. “I only have two blocks today,” Philip has just noted. “Good for you!”, Vini and I am retorting in chorus. We still have history in the last lesson. The typical game on Friday mornings: in the A-week, the majority of the year has lessons only until 10:45 on Friday, while the other part (to which Vini and I belong) has three blocks normally on that day as well. In B-week, the tables are turned.

It’s 7:10 am and the school bell is ringing. “See you later,” I’m calling out to Vini and making my way to the ethics room with Philip. After unpacking, I’m sliding over to Philip. (We are both sitting in the front row, but two chairs apart). “What did you actually get in the exam?” “09 points.” That’s a C+. “That’s quite good, isn’t it, how are you doing in ethics?”, I’m asking. “Well,” he’s saying, “I got 9.5 and would have needed 10.” “Oh dear, that hurts.”

Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens far too often in our 15-mark system. And then one mistake in a paper means a lower report card grade. I myself am satisfied with my result. In ethics, I’ve always scored 13. The slope towards 14 promises a chance for improvement next semester. One minute late, Mrs Lind is entering the room at 7:21 am. She’s welcoming us and distributing our exams. As expected, there were only 20 points to be achieved. That means: With every missing point, the mark score also decreases.

I’m looking at my work. 19 out of 20 points! That’s an insane amount, considering that I didn’t get on at all with the text work in the third assignment, according to my own assessment. Nevertheless, I’m following the evaluation of the tasks very attentively. Apart from the fact that I want to take my oral exam in ethics, I am simply in a good mood at the moment. But not all the faces of my classmates are looking happy.

Interesting turn

We have reached the end of the evaluation when Luca is coming forward. I like Luca and his way of discussing everything. In ethics itself, he has already given so many impulses in the most diverse directions that I would never have thought of myself. Now, on the other hand, his interest in getting a better mark in the exam doesn’t seem to be going down well, at least with Mrs Lind.

He is not the only one. The discussion in class soon is turning to half points. I’m only listening with half an ear. As I said, I am actually very happy with my grade. However, one sentence is making me sit up and take notice. “But Mrs Lind,” Luca is saying, “85% of 20 points are 17. I should still get the 13 mark points.”

There are fixed percentages for when you get which grade points for which total number of points. Suddenly the whole class is starting frantically digging out these same numbers and calculating their own grade points. Mrs Lind, on the other hand, is looking dismayed. “I calculated everything by hand, because I also calculate with half points. How many points did you have again?” She is recalculating Luca’s score. “You’re right,” she then is murmuring, “does this concern anyone else?” A few students are speaking up.

“And that’s exactly why, so that something like this doesn’t happen, I always go over the scores with the students beforehand.” Mrs Lind is struggling with herself. “That’s never happened to me before. Mrs Nost” – our upper school coordinator – “will be very angry.” In the meantime, it has turned out that our ethics teacher calculated with 21 total points (instead of 20) in her correction, so that for very many students the exam grade shifts upwards – and with it the overall grade for the course semester.

My grade also changes: I am actually supposed to have 15 points in the exam. That makes 14 points for my report card – which would mean the only improvement in one subject compared to last semester. So far, so good. Unfortunately, last week was the deadline for grades and our report cards are ready to be printed out and signed by our headmistress at Mrs. Nost’s office.

That means trouble

In order to keep track of everything, Mrs Lind is calling each pupil forward individually. In the meantime, we are supposed to look at our silent work from the last lesson (Mrs Lind had distributed assignments while she was sick). “What exactly was the task?” someone in the room is asking. “I had left it for you on Fuxnoten,” the teacher is saying. “But the substitution plan said the assignments were on EmuCloud,” is the reply.

Ah yes, our school and technology. Through Corona, we were forced to build online means through which students and teachers could communicate. So EmuCloud was created to upload and retrieve files, and Fuxnoten to communicate assignments to students. In the past, however, we hardly had anything to do with Fuxnoten.

I even asked Philip last week if there was anything to do with ethics now, because there was nothing in the cloud. We had agreed that there were probably no tasks. It was only a few days ago that Lisa told me that Fuxnoten had told us to look at environmental ethics approaches. I conscientiously did that, but of course forgot to tell Philip. “Who hasn’t done anything now?” Mrs Lind is asking. Almost the entire class is speaking up.

I feel sorry for our teacher, and not just at this moment. She’s sendig two boys to fetch the ethics books from the next room. We are being instructed do the assignments now, while Mrs Lind compares the scores with individual students.

The clarification of her mistake brings 6 pupils a better report mark; Philip, Luca and me included. Luca’s average is now between two grades but because of his cooperation Mrs Lind has no choice but to say: “If Luca doesn’t get the better grade, who will?” To prove that he also deserves the better grade, he is to evaluate the assignments with the class, while Mrs Lind goes straight to Mrs Nost and gives her the bad news. “She won’t be pleased, she won’t be pleased at all,” the ethics teacher is murmuring as she walks out of the room.

Notes on the board

“Okay.” Luca turns to the class. “Has anyone done the assignments and would like to present them?” Dead silence in the room. I don’t speak up because I know Luca will get back to me anyway. Indeed. “Maja,” he is saying just then, “surely you’d like to present the solutions.” I’m laughing and replying, “I’m happy to help you, but YOU have to present it. After all, Mrs Lind gave you the job.”

We’re getting up and going to the blackboard; he with his book, I with my notes. “You dictate, I write?”, I’m asking. “I’ll write on the heading first,” Luca is saying. “We’ll never get it all on this board,” I’m remarking as the heading reads quite large at the top. I’m opening the board. Now we have twice as much space.

Environmental ethics: we wrote something like this on the board. More information on this topic can be found here.

There is a short discussion about who exactly writes what. Then Luca is deciding without further ado: “I’m going to draw a quantity diagram.” Just like a true mathematician. Lisa is joining me and asking if she should dictate to me while I’m writing. “If you know how to read it, yes.” Surely I’ve mentioned my less than one hundred percent legible handwriting when I write quickly? Well, Lisa can decipher it and so I start writing down the first two natural ethics in bullet points.

In the meantime, Luca has summarised the other two views on the blackboard, so I only have to add a few small things. Now he’s fetching coloured chalk. He draws the lines of the quantity diagram in colour while he’s speaking: “We want this to look like we thought of something when creating this.” Mrs Lind enters the room as she’s saying, “I’m still alive. The report cards are changed.” She’s sighing and looking at the blackboard picture. “Well, that looks good for a start. Have you gone over the topics?” We’re assuring her we had just intended to do this.

“Would anyone like to introduce what we’ve written on?” Luca is asking after returning to his seat. And well, what can I say? After the initial hesitation of the class, life comes into our blackboard picture, which according to Ms Lind is “very descriptive”. “You’ve earned the better grade there,” our teacher is saying to Luca shortly before the bell rings for the first break. I’m walking to the door with a smile. Philip also seems pleased. I guess neither of us had expected the better grade. Now I just have to get through the rest of the day, even if it won’t be as interesting as this ethics lesson, I’m thinking to myself while entering the corridor.

Note: This ethics lesson took place as described. I only changed the names of the teachers.

Another funny school day took place just a few days later. The whole story can be found here. Click here, if you want to know more about my weekend routine.

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