Recently I attended a ‘Preparation for HSC’ presentation, delivered by the charismatically practical, Teen psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg. During this presentation Carr-Gregg offered many tasty titbits to encourage students and placate parents. For students he offered specific study strategies which aimed to reduce study related stress and improve memory. For parents he suggested ways to support from the shadows. However for me as a teacher, one of the most compelling insights was the idea that the most important relationships a student has in their final years of schooling are the ones they have with their teachers.
Teachers understand this and I suspect, so do many students. The final years of school witness an evolution in the teacher / student dynamic. Teachers become mentors and coaches rather than instructors and trainers. Thus the formal disciplinary line blurs when students recognise the value of respectful discourse and collaborative effort. In short, successful senior students emerge from their self absorbed cocoon to become inwardly motivated, focused individuals who are willing to accept responsibility for their own actions because they have recognised the link between choice and consequence.
It is useful to consider the implications of this renewed relationship. As teachers we must recognise the responsibility and privilege place upon us. We have the opportunity and moral obligation to guide and support our students as they face what to them, appears to be one of life’s biggest hurdles. Although we may have approached this leap many times (so it becomes a mere ‘blimp’) this is usually their first foray into life beyond secure school walls. As a result students often rely on our experience and calm resolute demeanour to power and inspire their effort. Teachers can offer the map, tools and strategies required to navigate the knowledge path. However they can also ‘make magic’ through simple words of encouragement and belief in the individual. We are not their parents, nor are we their friends, we are quite simply ‘there’ when they need to know they matter.