A few short months ago, sometime from September to October, I was a nervous wreck. Read the backdated entries Sending Off My First Group Of N Level Students and Can I Let Go? to get an honest glimpse of the tumultuous roller-coaster journey with the twenty students under my charge.
To be fair, it was not as painful and draining an experience as my exaggeration possibly makes it out to be – there were also periods of delight, sweet moments of (small) victories, and much joy and laughter. Teachers like Ms J concerned themselves with bearing the burden with me, and the students – some of them at least – also picked up their game towards the end.
I remember many teachers perceived these Literature students with scepticism, without the surety or promise of hope… A “mistake”,.. one that needed to be rectified. A particular teacher, higher in seniority, even advised me to encourage the less-able students to drop the subject as it will affect the overall performance % and may do myself in. I must admit I was – and perhaps still am – guilty of some of these thoughts. Literature is tough; these students were offered this subject as a result of an under-informed decision; Literature is not suitable for them. I started the year 2012 with them with some weird sort of pretend optimism. I told the class that I promised to give my best to them so that they pass their mid-years (7 out of 20 did), and in return I expected commitment from them (It was on hindsight, a mistake not to define “commitment”, by the way.). I was all ready to give an inspiring speech like Braveheart but my insides were crumbling day by day. So it was a deliberate balance between showering them with sweet somethings, encouragement and promise, and whipping them with the harsh realisms of consequence.
We fought so hard, so hard, to give them an education in English Literature that they deserved this year. I hope we did, eventually. I did not just want them to do reasonably well for it, I wanted them to experience what Literature was about – the sensitivity to language and words, the intensity of dialogue and literary opinion, the fascination with the imagination and its transpiration in writing across cultures, the wonder of life that we behold from the texts. Ha ha. In short, praise for the world through a bold fascination for words. I am not sure what they took out of the 9 months (or so) with me and the 4 years of Literature in school. But we did so much in 8 months and I am so proud of them for how far they have come since January.
So, was I expecting anything?
The results were released on the 17 December 2012. I did not dare to expect anything of them or of myself. In a huge way their performance was an affirmation (or not) of the heart, sweat and tears invested throughout the year. It could also be telling of whether what I did this year was wrong or right. I guess I was very worried that if they did not perform (whatever that means), I had failed them, the school, myself, and Literature – a subject, no, a way of life – which I have grown to love. YEAH. So paranoid, I know.
95% of the students made it. They passed. Our efforts to do them and Literature justice paid off. The students were excited – many of them scored 3s and 4s which may have been unexpected for them – considering 50% failed their preliminary examinations. One boy who thought all hope was lost after he answered a wrong question, actually bounced back to life with a B. Two students scored distinctions.
Results is always a subjective affair, and the quantifiable figures only tell you that much. Many colleagues SMSed me their congratulations for the good results of the students. I wonder if I could have done anything more to push for more distinctions or a better grade for them. Nothing is perfect and in no need of improvement.
I believe that individually, most (if not all) of those students would have felt that sense of achievement and success. That is the moment all of us live for, don’t we? The moment when you taste that thrill of exuberance and surprise at having achieved something you know you may not have been able to, that moment when you feel your efforts have paid off, that joyful affirmation of your (probable, latent) talent. It may be short-lived, this happy moment, but it is definitely a speechless wonder.
And once again it is a beautiful testimony of God’s infinite grace. I know for sure, that none of this would be possible without the grace and mercy of God. Everything came together after all, despite a rather jerky and uncertain beginning.
The heart-ful journey, whatever that means, is worth it.
I hope no student will ever have to go through the darkish imprisonment of being chained to study a subject they have no interest for, and have little aptitude in. Those students – and no one else – deserve to shoved a subject without good reason or conviction on the school’s part to see them through with the best education possible. Now a grey area still exists in that these students will not need their books and material in 2013 when they come back for their O Level Examinations. It is a tough call on the school leaders’ part, and probably not a fair one for the students, but this time I choose to step to the side and see what good will come out of it.
And here’s a very apt song to end off the entire year! :)