I have just come back from a standardising course. I thought I was an examiner; it turns out I am a moderator. That will teach me to check my post without my reading glasses. I would have known if I had read the small print on the downloadable XRN363xam PDF on the exam board extranet. Available, that is, if you don't use an internet provider who, for reasons best known to itself, runs its broadband service like a Yorkshire Dales bus service - the last connection is at 4pm and with an intermittent service on weekends, bank holidays and when it's a bit foggy.
So it was with some trepidation that I found myself in London last week, sitting among a bunch of jolly moderating professionals, facing an intimidating pile of unmarked coursework. The senior moderator, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Neil from The Young Ones and clearly influenced by my internet provider's school of customer service, took pains to distribute the handouts so randomly around the room that in order to survive the morning session I had to rely on the kindness and support materials of three strangers.
The session began with the important business of timetabling coffee breaks and lunch. I studiously noted the housekeeping schedule on my complimentary embossed stationery: tea - 11.15; lunch - 12.45. So far so good. I was determined to keep meticulous notes on the whole day's proceedings to steer me through the labyrinthine administrative processes. I sat up in readiness as another earnest young chap took to the floor.
"You are all no doubt familiar with this autumn's standardising materials". Strike One. I would have been, had our postman not been in the habit of popping large packages that he couldn't squeeze through the letterbox into the outside recycling bin, an admirable solution to Royal Mail delivery problems. My confidence wilted like a forecourt bouquet and the rest of the morning did little to refresh it.
"On page 76, appendix 2:1 of the moderator's handbook you will find examples of all authentication materials, including forms MOD%(i) and MODeh?Y(ii), plus the MODROCker$ expenses claim form, with all other documents available on the My Little Resources section of the extranet."
He might as well have spoken in Flemish. My hopes were dashed: stymied by my internet service provider, my postman and my inability to understand examboardspeak. I resorted to spirographing petals inside the first letter "O" in the word moderator. I wondered if I could request the assistance of a learning support assistant, but she would probably just help me colour my flower in more neatly. We finally broke for lunch just as I finished transforming the letter "D" into a slightly zygomorphic daisy.
Lunch was a great comfort: you are never alone with a profiterole. But the afternoon was a disaster. As my colleagues announced their perfectly synchronised grades, I discovered that my marking was as skewed as my reverse parking, only this time it was my ego and not my Citroen Berlingo that took the knock. Standardising is a humiliating experience, akin to exposing your inverted nipples on Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies. We can justify these in the "interests of medicine" or for "training purposes", but the truth is that my incompetent marking and your genital warts just make us feel bad and everyone else look good.
Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the North of England.