December 15 2012

On leaving school.

My reflections on leaving school. It is the moment that society expects all students look forward to, right? And it’s the moment that kids routinely talk about as their goal, their desire … “I can’t wait till school is finished.” “I can’t wait to get out of this place.” How often, though, do we hear people talk about how they didn’t realise how good it was at school until they left?

I had to sign one student out yesterday, and another came to tell me he’s leaving too, will be visiting me with his paperwork on Monday. I’m thrilled for them – they are both heading into apprenticeships that they are really interested in. Neither of them are particularly keen students, highly motivated academic types … They’ve both had their fair share of issues throughout the years. The first is in my yr10 boys class – a group of fantastic, entertaining, enthusiastic and highly engaging young men, who just don’t happen to be entertained or engaged much by schoolwork. It’s been a struggle to build connections with them, but I have persevered, and tried different things, because I believe these kids are the ones who really need good, connected and relevant teaching more so than all the so-called “good kids”. He has always struck me as the kind of kid who has amazing potential, but he was more comfortable being a clown. He’s grown so much this year, really taking on board a lot of what people have invested in him, and whilst I was thrilled he’s got the job he wants, part of me mourns the loss of him in my class. Part of me would love to see where he could be if he started to believe in his own mind, and really committed to seeing how he could go at school. Not that I think his apprenticeship isn’t of extraordinary value, you know … It’s just bittersweet. I would have loved to see him sink his teeth into some of the texts we’d have looked at next year. But kudos to him.

The other one has me crying, and I don’t know how I’m going to cope when I sign his leavers form on Monday. He is in my year group, and I don’t know how many times people have come to me tearing their hair out in frustration. He has such an engaging personality, and I’ve worried about him so much, but this year, again, he’s really grown into the leader I saw in him the very first time I met him. For the first time since he’s been at our school, he attended presentation night this week, not only to receive an academic award for first place in a course, but to help with a presentation from one of our community partners. The look of pride on his face was hard to miss. He has been wanting this job for a while now, and has been working towards it all year, and I’m glad it came after this week, so he’s leaving on a high note, with a sense of achievement, and the culmination of an increasingly positive experience of school this year. I’m beyond proud of him, and was busting with excitement when he told me he had his job, but I can’t imagine my year group without him. He has just stepped up so much this year, and has been a joy to work with, both at school and on our camp. I’m not wearing mascara to school on Monday.

These reflections on leaving school have prompted me to think about my own experiences this year. My own feelings about this place I spend so much of my life, and which consumes so much more of my time when I’m not there! It’s difficult sometimes, what we do as teachers. The politics. The bureaucracy. The stress. The pressure. But all of that is worth it, if we can be a part of these kinds of “leaving school” experiences for our most disenfranchised, our most at-risk. I’m more proud of that than any Band 6. I love my job.

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Posted December 15, 2012 by Tamara Reads in category General musings

About the Author

She/her. On Whadjuk Noongar land. NSWPRC Officer, Teacher Librarian, English teacher and social media advocate. I've been teaching in Western Sydney for my entire teaching career, and love my job more than I love Neil Gaiman. (That's a lot, in case you're wondering!) I stalk authors (but always politely), fangirl over books, and drink coffee. And one of my guilty prides about my children is that they all have favourite authors. All opinions are my own.

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