Long story short: there are no guarantees with the Leaving Cert, but if there were — Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin would be on the 2018 English paper.
There appears to be a logic to how the SEC structures papers. For HL English poetry, a woman, an Irish person, somebody who hasn't come up in a while... Yes, that's right - there appears to be a logic to SEC decisions, but they don't make any promises.
|Be careful with predictions.|
Are these patterns are too broad to lead to a definite conclusion? Let's see. Our advice is that you can take risks, but don't ever risk complete ruin. How to do that? Read on.
The day after the English Papers are finished, there's always an article in some Irish newspaper or blog saying that the paper wasn't fair. The only way the paper wouldn't be fair is if you felt it owed you something. It doesn't. We are all in the same boat, and what will definitely come up on the exam is unknowable (unless you want to try and infiltrate the SEC - I think they are in Westmeath).
Every year, there are eight prescribed poets and four are on the paper. You have to do one.
The table below has every poet that has been on the syllabus since 2011. The guys in bold are the ones that came up. The observations at the bottom of the table identify the patterns.
|Irish man 1||Kavanagh||Kavanagh||Kinsella||Yeats||Montague||Durcan||Durcan||Durcan|
|Irish man 2||Yeats||Heaney||Mahon||Heaney||Yeats||Yeats||Montague|
|British man 1||Hopkins||Larkin||Hopkins||Larkin||Donne||Larkin||Keats||Keats|
|British man 2||Wordsworth||Wordsworth||Kinsella||Hardy||Hopkins||Hopkins|
|Generic woman||Boland||Boland||Bishop||Ní Chuilleanáin||Ní Chuilleanáin||Boland||Boland|
|American woman 1||Dickinson||Plath||Bishop||Dickinson||Dickinson||Bishop||Bishop|
|American woman 2||Rich||Rich||Plath||Plath||Plath||Dickinson||Plath|
|The other yank (M/F)||Frost||Frost||Rich||Frost||Eliot||Eliot||Frost|
|Observations||2 women||1 woman||2 women||2 women||1 woman||2 women||2 women|
|1 British man||1 British man||1 British man||1 British man||1 British man||2 British men|
|1 Irish man||2 Irish men||1 Irish man||1 Irish man||1 Irish man||1 Irish man|
|1 American man||1 American man|
|Repeat: Plath||Repeat: Bishop|
Limit it to women or Irish men if you're a badass. No promises though. It's not like you'll be able to take the SEC to court for sexism/racism should they decide to change it up!
Having said that, the SEC probably doesn't want to be crucified by virtually every newspaper in this country who undoubtedly will take the opportunity to accuse them of setting the paper unfairly should the paper not contain someone Irish or female. Alas, it is a political issue (it is the State examining us after all). Or will they be praised for making the dreaded Leaving Cert less predictable? Or will it be seen as unfair? It's hard to know and ultimately it is a personal decision that depends on your tolerance for risk: a bit like if you were buying stocks and bonds.
What are the risks actually like if you go below 5 poets?
Even if we assume that each poet is equally likely to come up:
If you only do 4 poets, there is a 1/70 (1.4%) chance that one of the poets you studied doesn't come up. That's a ~98.5% chance that you will be fine.
If you only do 3 poets, there is a 1/14 (7.1%) chance that one of the poets you studied doesn't come up.
If you only do 2 poets, there is a 3/14 (21.4%) chance that one of the poets you studied doesn't come up.
If you only do 1 poet, there is a 1/2 (50%) chance that the poet you studied doesn't come up.
When you think about it, the odds aren't against you no matter what way you play it. It's a personal decision. Everyone who writes for 625points revised five. Just saying.
Another important point to consider is that everyone is hoping for the same poet. Last year (2017), everyone wanted Eavan Boland to come up. She did. So most examiners were correcting possibly 4 or 5 Boland essays for every non-Boland essay. What does that do?
Well, the examiner (a human being, ultimately) will get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. While a great essay is still a great essay, the people who usually get 70-80% may get lower grades. It's just harder to engage the examiner if you are (inadvertently) repeating what they have already read 5 times earlier that day. This shouldn't be the deciding factor in your choice of poet: even if you do an obscure poet, you still need to be excellent to get a high grade.
If all other things are equal, however, go for it. For example, I, the author of the guide, know all eight poets equally well and if Larkin, Keats or Hopkins came up, I would definitely do one of them. Why? Because I know that their poetry is full of obscure features that are lost on most people and this gives me an advantage.
Having said that, don't do a poet you find annoying for the sake of doing a more "exotic" poet. Your lack of interest is much harder to hide than you might think.
We don't like to make predictions [cough cough, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin], but let's just say we gently brought our video on Eavan Boland to the attention of more people than there were doing the LC via our Facebook presence. Watch out for more subtle cues this year ;)
Note that poets can come up two years in a row (though it happened only twice in 5 years in the above sample).
2. Know your quotations.
As a rough guide, try to have a quotation, even a short one, 3-4 times per average paragraph.
3. Don't be afraid of new essay titles.
All essay titles are slightly mutated clones of each other. Don't be thrown. Every single poetry essay title asks you to discuss two things in the broadest sense: imagery (how things are described) and themes (what is described and what does it mean). You know what to say. You've done it before. Lakes-birds-metaphors-alliteration-iambic-pentameter and love-country-childhood-loneliness-satire-philosophy... Ok, there's more finesse to it, but you won't be asked to split the atom.
Don't all these titles below look quite alike?
Poet A uses <adjective> imagery to discuss <adjective> subject matter
Poet A is an <adjective> observer of reality that is enhanced by <adjective> subject matter
Reading the poetry of Poet A’s can be both an uplifting and a disturbing experience
Poet A’s poetry is full of <negative emotion> with occasional glimpses/moments of <positive emotion>
4. Try* to mention six poems.
*This depends on the poet. In my actual LC I wrote about four of Eliot's poems. It depends on the depth you go into.
However, the marking scheme does say: "Normally the study of at least six poems by each poet would be expected. (DES English Syllabus, 6.3)". "Study", not "mention", but by and large, six is a good aim.
5. Engage with the poems.
Don't write a paragraph about a poet's life and so on without talking about a specific poem. The context is important: Durcan's relationship with his father, Bishop's troubled childhood, etc. The context is only a supporting part. The main focus is on the poem.
6. Don't obsess about being exactly right.
The examiner is required to keep an open mind as per the marking scheme. Make your points and back them up.
"Note that there is not a finite list of any ‘poet’s themes and interests".
7. Show your writing skills.
As for single texts, there really isn't much point in trying to predict it. Is a character question guaranteed every year? No. It's always somewhat different angles on the same core themes. We go into depth on that in the Complete Revision Guides for 2017 and 2018
Similarly, with the theme for Paper 1. What difference will it really make if I told you the theme was going to be Peace, or Diversity, or whatever? Your writing skill and ability to draw on your reading of the texts and previous experiences won't be much enhanced if you spend 4 weeks thinking about the theme.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Deborah Loewenberg Ball was a classroom teacher for years and now heads the respected teacher education program at the University of Michigan.
But Ball said she still learns how to be a better teacher when she spends a week each summer working with elementary school math students and teachers.
That’s why, she said, Michigan’s new teacher evaluation system is intended to help educators hone their classroom skills and not select who should be shown the door.
Ball, dean of U of M’s School of Education, is chairwoman of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The panel today announced 14 districts chosen to test new teacher evaluation systems based in part on student performance, but also on multiple classroom observations and other measures.
The evaluations are required by state law, and teachers can be removed after a series of poor reviews.
But Ball emphatically states that her goal is to create a statewide system that will offer teachers opportunities to improve.
“Education as a profession has never been improvement oriented,” she said. “Historically there has been this notion that people are born to be a teacher. But the reality is that people can learn new things and improve their craft. After all my years in education, I learned something new last week.”
The 14 districts participating in the pilot program will use one of four evaluation systems, with an eye on selecting one of more for statewide use next year.
Evaluations typically include multiple classroom observations from trained staff that could include master teachers and retired teachers and administrators.
RELATED: Teacher evaluation methods using student exams to be tested in 14 Michigan districts
The student testing will go beyond the Michigan Educational Assessment Program exams, which are offered each fall, when teachers have had students in their classes for only about a month. The council also will use the ACT exam and two other standardized tests. Also in the mix is a new computer adaptive exam offered several times during the year to determine student growth.
An outside contractor not connected to any of the methods used in the pilots will be hired to analyze results.
Council leaders said goals of the pilot include looking for alternative ways of measuring student growth in non-tested areas, such as art, music and physical education.
Leaders of an education advocacy group called the evaluation system “essential to getting hard-working Michigan teachers the feedback, training and support they deserve to improve their practice.”
Michigan has never had an evaluation system that supports teachers in a consistent, cohesive way, said David Zeman, managing director for content and communication for the Education Trust-Midwest.
“Teachers deserve better and, most important, so do students,” he said.
Zeman said the vast majority of teachers in Michigan are hard-working professionals who crave meaningful feedback. Whether they are a novice teacher or a veteran of 20 years, they want to get better.
Zeman said if anything, a statewide evaluation system will protect teachers against arbitrary firings because it will use multiple measures, not just test scores or observations by a single principal.
“Think about it,” he said. “Currently in Michigan, many teachers are not even evaluated on an annual basis. And many more are evaluated through classroom observations that are little more than cursory checklists filled out by an administrator once a year. They don’t give teachers the nuanced feedback that note their strengths and weaknesses, or identify the kind of training and support that will help them improve their practice. That’s why you see teacher surveys throughout the country in which teachers say they get almost nothing out of the evaluation process.”
Zeman said the council understands the concerns of teachers who “heroically” want to work in areas where poverty and other issues can hurt student performance, and the system is planned to be sophisticated enough to take that into account so teachers will be praised for growth without being punished for students not meeting statewide averages.
Teachers union leaders say they are “cautiously optimistic” about the process, especially the pilot program.
“What we have been worried about all along was that these types of plans would be set in place without chance for working educators to offer any feedback,” said Doug Pratt, public affairs director for the Michigan Education Association.
“We’ve said all along that good evaluations can help teachers. Good teachers want feedback. But we want to make sure these evaluations are accurate.”
Email Dave Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ReporterDMurray or on Facebook.