The sun slips beyond the hills sending golden fingers of light to dance gracefully across the water. I am home. This is a place of contentment but not a space for rest, the next chapter waits beneath the keyboard. Instead of being a teacher who writes I am now a writer who teaches. I am a writer. Wow, those words are empowering! I am a writer…
Yet equally, I am a teacher and I realise the words, I am a teacher, are just as empowering. In fact I believe it was ‘the teacher’ who empowered ‘the writer’. So as I look forward, I also glance back to appreciate the past. Not surprisingly, these pages settle into a narrative pattern.
I recognise the years devoted to teaching and mentoring my International students were the orientation stage of my quest. It was during this time I realised that even though I loved teaching, it was the mentoring and welfare aspects of my role that offered a sense of ‘true’ purpose. Together, we (my students and I) discovered that the processes involved in learning English, could become the foundation for a greater understanding of social systems and cultural alertness.
Then in 2008 came the initiating event that was to alter my teaching focus forever – College 8. For the first time in ten years I was teaching local students – local students who were only thirteen years old. This was a new world of hormonal confusion and identity recognition – for the girls and myself. As the year progressed a fresh path emerged and this glimmering trail coaxed me forward in a new direction. Together, we discovered that the processes involved in learning English offered the opportunity to view stories as personal access points. These doors provided entry to an illuminated track that led toward greater recognition of self.
By 2009 a complication was revealed. College 8 became College 9, a new College 8 was added to my class list and I was introduced to the rambunctious, pragmatic sensitivity of Grammar 10. As I shared the learning space with 16 year old boys and witnessed men struggling to emerge from under a boy’s shadow I realised I had reached an impasse. Change had arrived and decisions needed to be made. Who was I? What did I stand for? What was I going to teach? Pushing forward with Grammar 10 I saw what could be taught. I recognised that English lessons could be more than literature appreciation or essay writing; they could prepare students for a life (and a critical literacy) beyond the school gates.
So by 2010 I reached a resolution. Drawing upon the experience of previous years I began to write. I started to blog and dove deeper into the research surrounding learning styles and cognitive processing. By this point, my class list included Grammar 7; twelve year old boys who were a shifting mass of fearful bravado. College 8 became College 9, College 9 became College 10 and Grammar 10 rolled into Standard 11. The stage was set, my objective clear. I was an English teacher who wanted more than academic success for her students. I wanted my students to recognise their emotions, identify their thoughts and channel them towards clear objectives. Together we would use language and stories to prepare for a successful, critically aware, mindfully chosen, life.
2011 presented the opportunity for evaluation. I watched the students fulfil their goals. I saw boys and girls become young men and women. I finished writing Is This MyStory and recognised how my personal narrative had been shaped by the students I taught. This is why their names grace the cover of my book. The design was a conscious way of honouring my student’s legacy – the inspiration they provided and the lessons they taught.
Although ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, in reality most of us do. So when you look at the cover of Is This MyStory, what do you see? I see hope. I see bright individuals who have made a conscious decision to be the author of their own life. I see confident, courageous, creative and compassionate young men and women. I see my students.
As a writer, I acknowledge the power of a teacher.