What I’ve learnt from my students

Monday night was our valedictory dinner – a chance to say farewell and “keep in touch or else” to our amazing year 12 students. There were speeches, and dancing, and crazy selfies, but most of all, for me, it was a chance to reflect on the incredible impact these people have had on my life (and to promise not to cry – a promise I expect to break on their last day).

My job is to teach, and to do that I need to learn so much. Fortunately I have had the most amazing teachers.

They have taught me that first, second, and even third impressions can still leave you with no idea of what lies beneath. Sometimes all you have to do is provide the opportunities and stand well clear. When you give someone the chance to fly, rather than clipping their wings, that’s when you find out who they really are. Sometimes, without meaning to, teachers wind up nailing their students to the perch. Remove the nails, open the cage door, and the most unexpected students are capable of spectacular flight.

I have learned that teenagers get really bad press, but they are intensely generous and selfless. They care enormously about the world around them, and they change it for the better every single day.

I have learned that a sense of humour is far more important in a classroom than a carefully prepared powerpoint presentation. I have also learned that chocolate trumps both.

I have learned that while we are watching, caring for, and helping our students, our students are watching, caring for, and helping us.

I have learned about mindfulness and self control.

I have learned about leadership and teamwork.

I have learned that one of the most important things you can do for your students is connect with them and learn who they really are (and give them chocolate).

I have learned that one of the most important things you can do for yourself is connect with your students and show them who you really are (but they don’t give me chocolate very often).

I have learned that the spaces outside the classroom can often be the places where magic happens. The shared TED talks. The photos. The desperate waiting for the new series of Dr Who. The heart-stopping moments of shared panic (you know who you are). Those precious moments of human connection.

I have learned that my students have far more to contribute to my classes than I ever will. I have learned to follow where they lead, and be amazed by their insight.

I have learned that my worst and toughest days can be turned around by a conversation, a bottle-neck dolphin, a funny exam answer, or even a carrot. I’ve learned a lot about carrots.

I’ve learned that every group of students I teach changes my life.

Above all I’ve learned that my students may only be on my roll for a year, but they are in my heart forever. They will go forth and change the world, and I am, and will always be, proud to say “They are my students. They taught me so much.”

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