Sunday, August 21, 2005

The highs make it all worthwhile...

Typing up feedback for my year 12's on their writing folio SAC today has reminded me that I need to remember the wonderful moments that are still happening in my professional life, even when life has become a little tougher than usual.

It is my year 12's personal writing folio pieces in particular that bring this home to me. We don't draft the writing folio pieces at my school (yes, I want to change this, too)but I had some wonderful discussions with my students about their writing process- conversations that have been one of the major highlights in my year. Consequently, their statements of intention (the only thing I'm allowed to look at and discuss with them) are works of art that convey to me the students' level of engagement in their writing and the fruit that has come from our discussions as my students have experimented and succeeded with interesting structures and complex imagery and symbols. It will be interesting to see how my students' statements are received during crossmark tomorrow, as they are quite a bit longer and more detailed than usual. Then, there are the pieces themselves...

H's piece, for example, who has reflected on an important family tradition- the making of the Christmas pudding. Her narrative begins with an image of a tattered scrap of paper, bearing the precious recipe, on a ship bound from Ireland six generations ago. Her descriptions of the present family festivities are connected with the voice of her grandmother, the family figurehead, with snippets of the recipe to show the passing of time. I love the image she creates of her grandmother and great aunt, as children, leaping up to tap the puddings while they bob gently to and fro in the laundry. H is my patriot- her notion of 'Australianness' oozes from her writing- the love of the bush, Banjo, Lawson and brumbies that she has inherited from her father.

Then there is D, my scruffy little soccer player, who writes the most beautiful, evocative prose that you would never expect to come out of this quiet, but cheeky boy (I wish I could write like him). Until this year, he has gotten C's in English, which flabbergasted me until he explained, "I just never tried before now, Miss". I can't understand how he has managed to hide his lovely prose, though. He writes about sky diving- the rush that allows him to break free and reflect on his day to day existence.

L is a wonderful percussionist, one of the best in the state for his age, and of course writes about his love for music in his writing folio. He begins with a series of drumming terms, syncopated and scattered across the page, before describing his love for music. He uses the metaphor of a small child, that he must nuture and care for, feed with hours of practice, commitment and responsibility to allow it to grow. It is his best piece for the year, because he is writing about his passion, and I have enjoyed talking about music and this piece of writing with him.

J is intense, a scientist, who stresses over calculating enter scores and wanting to get everything 'right'. Her descriptions of the rural university that she longs to go to is juxtaposed with what she sees as the cold architecture and bustling hub of Melbourne that could steal her away from her roots. Love and respect for the rural landscape comes across in many of my students' writing. I have always loved the city, but I occasionally envy the memories and experiences many of my students have of waking up to the sound of kookaburras and looking out the bedroom window to see gently rolling hills.

K spontaneously hugs me after every sac result she gets back, grateful for C+'s. She struggles to fit her ideas and words into a tightly structured text response essay. She has written a lovely narrative, though, describing her relationship with her art teacher, her mentor, and reflects on the way in which 'stray paint drops' can allow her to create and explore her own identity. This has been a particular triumph.

There are many other students, of course, too many to describe in this space. I need to make sure that I don't forget that they are the real reason why I teach, they are ones that I really want to spend time with each day (well, most of the time). I don't know why my short career still seems to consist of these perilous lows and exultant highs- never anything in between. It's kind of exhausting! It seems to match my interior- I think that I mostly come across as fairly calm and placid, but that really only hides the turbulence within. Still, as long as I keep having these highs, then I think I must be doing okay. At least I know I teach the most wonderful students in the world (and don't even think about arguing with me).

1 comment:

Nancy McKeand said...

Your students are lucky to have a teacher who recognizes that they are the best. As your soccer player story demonstrates, not everyone does!