Sitting at Dublin Airport early one morning, there was a rush as the Ryanair flight to Bristol was called. It was in the days before allocated seats and people who wanted to sit together would try to get on early so as to have a choice of seats. A tired-looking man, sat next to me in the departures lounge watched the throng and said, “I don’t know why they are rushing – there is one plane and everyone on it has to sit down. He was right, of course, even Ryanair had never been able to operate flights with standing room only (although, standing on the short flight from Dublin to Bristol would be a considerably more pleasant experience than many train journeys in England).
Having a boarding card for a flight seemed not so dissimilar to the evangelical Christian view of heaven; either you expressed the faith that allowed you in, or you did not, and you missed the flight, remaining in another place forever. It was a binary outcome, there was one possibility or the other.
At one time, trainee teachers in Ireland faced a binary outcome. A friend told of how there were two possible results, two possible Irish words that expressed the assessment of the student, one word meant, “satisfactory”, the other word meant “unsatisfactory”. There were no other possible outcomes; it was like a driving test, you either passed or you failed.
Working on a teacher training assignment, I pondered how simple binary outcomes made experiences. In my first assignment, a formative assessment for which no mark was given, I was given a borderline pass; in the next, which was given a mark, I gained a distinction. But what difference does it make? Either the course is passed or it is not passed; there are no other available outcomes. It is like the flight to Bristol, everyone who had a ticket was on the same plane; everyone who gets through the course has the same qualification.
There would be a sense of satisfaction in gaining another distinction, but would it make any difference? In all the years in parish ministry, no-one ever asked what qualifications I had gained, no-one was ever interested in which university I had attended. I have never ever heard a teacher talk about what grades they had gained at the start of their careers, why would anyone be interested?
My only concern is that the assignment is sufficient to get me aboard the flight.