Today I said farewell to some of the first students I ever taught. They have now graduated year 12 and will move on to the big wide world in their newfound freedom as adults.
What an emotional roller coaster!
I am so damn proud of my kids.
I know they may not remember much of me, but I remember them, and I probably always will.
I first taught them as an extremely unruly year 10 science class during my first year of teaching. They were a class that had me going home in tears of frustration and disappointment sometimes. We had many arguments in class, many lessons were interrupted by behaviour conversations, and many times students were sent out. I lost my cool, they genuinely made me angry, I just wanted to give up. They made me doubt myself as a teacher and as a person – if I couldn’t get through to them, why was I even doing this job??
But I never once gave up on them. As irritating as they were, there was no way I was willing to give up. No way I was willing to pass them along to someone else or send them out every lesson. Because they were such good kids. I could see their potential, could see how they could succeed if they would just listen for 2 minutes. But we also had some incredibly good times. When they were unusually quiet, or just did as they were supposed to without being asked. When we had successful experiments. When they truly understood the content and were engaged, answering questions and asking more.
I know this post probably sounds quite negative, but it really isn’t.
They made me laugh so often, such a silly group of young men and women who were discovering their own personalities alongside the curriculum. We had many jokes, sometimes focused on them, sometimes focused on me. We had deep and meaningful conversations about the work and about life in general. We talked about their pasts and their futures, about the world, about science, about life. They asked advice, and I gave respect. They were so damn cheeky too. Singing songs, dancing, mucking around in good humour when they weren’t driving me crazy. Sometimes I would go away from the class absolutely buzzing, remembering that this is why I wanted to be a teacher.
They taught me how to temper my own emotions, and that students definitely won’t just do as you ask them. They taught me how to change my teaching style to suit their different personalities. They taught me how to pretend to be happy when they needed that from me even though all I wanted to do was collapse. How to be strict but fair, because they were all about fair. How to stand up for myself as a teacher in front of a class who would band together against me.
I am the teacher I am today in a large part because of this one single class. One of my first as a fresh new science teacher, wide eyed and naïve. I truly think they taught me more about being a teacher than I taught them about science. I have taken what I learnt from them and used it in every class since. I hope I was able to teach them something during my time with them. Even if they don’t remember the content, I hope they remember the good times we had.
It’s such a strange feeling to be the one saying goodbye. They are leaving the school, and that is surprisingly hard for me. It’s easy when you’re the one leaving – you have new adventures to look forward to, new experiences, all excitement and nerves. But when you’re the one left behind, all you can do is give them a hug goodbye and wish them the best of luck with the rest of their lives, knowing you probably won’t ever see them again.
I wish them the absolute best lives they can make for themselves.
It’s a very bittersweet experience.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.