“Just when the world seems chained forever in dark and cold, up bobs the next generation, brash and bright as daffodils.” -Helen Thomson
Hope. It’s something we can’t live without, yet we live in a world that seems intent on breeding negativity through various news outlets. On more than one occasion I’ve let myself slip into the endless cycle of doom and I’m sure you have too – if you’d only admit it.
Luckily, I chose a profession that allows me to see hope blossom every day. I see a generation being crushed by the weight of change. Negative change. And they sit, they moan, they refuse, they shout, they get angry… and then they laugh. They smile, they joke, they get on with it. I’ve never known young adults to be as resilient as they seem to be today.
This is a generation who have had to cope with intense stress and pressure to do well that I hadn’t heard of until I started teaching. I certainly didn’t feel it when I did my GCSEs ten years ago. They’ve been turned into numbers, with each progression point becoming a stepping stone to the exclusive “5 A*-C” club. Or should we start using “9-4”, which is what it will be in August when results are published and schools boast of their impressive percentages? Yes, the schools will boast their percentages then turn and reprimand the teachers who didn’t manage to hit their personal targets.
Since when has the success rate of students shifted from them having to work hard to teachers having to break their backs to get the results? It’s a new cycle: teachers receive their targets, they constantly beat down students and force them to work harder, faster to get the results that reflect more on the educator than the student. I’ve done very well for myself on my own accord. I don’t remember having teachers putting intense pressure on me to succeed. If I’d failed, it would have been because I didn’t work hard, not because my teachers didn’t work hard enough for me.
I remain hopeful. I try to instil a positive atmosphere in my classroom that reinforces the idea that any student can make it, regardless of background and mindset. I think the powers that be are missing a trick there – change a closed mindset and you’re half way there to getting students to succeed without forcing them to stay after school for extra sessions. Without piling on extra homework and taking away their half terms to study more under your watchful gaze.
They don’t moan, they just fall in line. They trudge into my lesson and work through the same activities that I’ve taught all of my Yr11 classes, regardless of ability. It doesn’t matter if one student finds it difficult to understand the exam style extract because everyone sits the same exam. I struggle to give them reasons as to why they have to; we all just fall in line.
Whilst I struggle to explain why everyone sits the same exam, I look out to a sea of expectant faces and see cultural diversity that was near on absent when I was at school. I was one of the only students of colour, yet before me are a whole range of ethnic minorities. Not to worry, we will engage them with our new curriculum and set texts which has become less diverse instead of more.
They smile, they work through the activities and they try their hardest. They don’t complain. They just fall into line.
We could learn a lot from them. Despite the negativity that constantly surrounds them, they are hopeful and determined to make a difference and change the way so many of us view the world. It’s interesting to hear their views on things such as Brexit and the Presidential Election. I think we should give them more credit. After all, the decisions we make today shape their society more than ours. It’s up to us to take their hope and do our level best to show them that things will get better. Patience is a virtue, didn’t you know?
1 Oct 2020