This week has marked the last week of formal classes for the class of 2012. When I think about my year 12 class, the first image that comes to mind is a steep mountain. My year with them has been much like climbing a mountain. As any teacher who has ever changed schools knows, it is never easy inheriting a year 12 class. They have already built a relationship with their other teacher and you know that in three terms, you need to earn their trust and respect in such a way that allows them to suspend their fears and really engage in the learning process. You also need to get to know them fairly quickly, to understand how best to motivate them to achieve their best. All this before any essay is submitted for marking, or any quote is highlighted and annotated in any book (ebook or otherwise)
My year 12 class this year has been an eclectic mix of young women. Their interests and talents are diverse, as are their needs. I have always had very high standards and expectations of my students and at times I have found that my class had difficulty in meeting them and that I wasn’t prepared to lower my standards, because I could see so much potential in each one of them. There was a lot of coaxing and pleading on my part to get them to ‘do that little bit extra.’ At the core of my frustration was that so many of them didn’t believe they could do really well in English, yet I think they would have to be one of the better Standard English classes I have had the privilege of teaching. Some of them had just given up… even before the year had begun. Contrastingly, I also had some exceptionally motivated students, of varying abilities who had really taken the challenge to do that little bit extra.
I found that this year was really about trying different teaching methods to engage them. Much of this was like climbing a mountain and for part of the year, I could not see the top. At about the time of the Trial HSC exams, I was beginning to see the light. Students who had not necessarily performed well in class work or assessment tasks had really come into their own. To read the responses of my students, when I thought that some of them were not really engaged, to see them develop their ideas and to take on board the feedback that I had given them on their work was really one of the best times of my year.
Only yesterday evening at the graduation dinner, a couple of my students, not the best English students, but great students nonetheless came to share their reflections on the year with me. I was really surprised, really surprised when they said that they were encouraged to study because I believed in them and made them think they were worth it. They recounted some experiences in the past, in their learning where they felt disengaged from the process. I was really caught by surprise by these two young women, because they were so articulate, so honest and so generous in their assessment of the year and of their learning. At that moment, hearing them talk about their learning, reflecting on their experiences and sharing their plans for the future, I can safely say that it was like I had climbed that mountain with them and we were looking out over a spectacular panoramic view. The kind of view that is really satisfying once you’ve completed that tough climb. I did take some time today to read some lovely cards from my students and it made the entire year worth it. Not because they said ‘nice things’, rather that they were so articulate in reflecting on their learning and on their growth and development as students.
So as their school lives are coming to an end, I can only hope that their education equips them with the skills and knowledge needed to take advantage of the wonderful beginnings that post school opportunities will bring to each of them.