This term I have a new Year 12 class, and a new HSC syllabus to teach, all heading towards a new HSC exam. Fun times, hey? TBH, when the new English syllabus came out I was pretty excited. I love new things, and I love change… I thought for sure that this term I would be loving teaching Year 12. Unfortunately, that’s not (so far) been my experience. I can’t decide what the reason is… I guess there are a few: I’ve just come back to work after an epic family trip to Japan (so my head maybe isn’t in ‘the game’), I’m teaching a program that I didn’t write (so I don’t have that buzz of implementing something I’ve created), the start of the module is sort of boring because it’s too general and not connected to a text (we don’t start 1984 until week 4, so mostly it’s just reading tasks which are awful to teach), and the new module is just a bit ‘meh’. I don’t know… it’s so broad, it just feels uninspiring. They may as well have called it ‘write about stuff’… or maybe I’m just being boring? I’ve tried to make it more interesting (for me at least), by introducing students to existentialism and suggesting that a better title for the module would be ‘human existence’ because then we can start to get into interesting stuff like living authentically, contemplating the absurdity of life, and accepting personal responsibility for life’s meaning. Even still, we have to bring it way back down again when looking at the sample HSC reading task, which is just plain bleurgh.
I worry for my students because of all the changes, and how, as teachers, we need to make sure they feel confident and not daunted by the fact that they don’t have the safety net of their older peers. It’s not easy for them knowing they are the ‘guinea pigs’. I’ve tried to focus on organisation – giving them all plastic document folders to keep in class with all of their notes and booklets. I’ve tried to make things fun by getting them to choose a song about a human experience (answer = literally any song in the world) to add to a class Spotify playlist. I’ve tried to make the module focused on exploring new literature by bringing in a huge bag of books for them to pick short texts out of for their related texts. I’m trying to convince myself that there is continuity between the awesome learning we did together in Year 11 (for which I think the syllabus was quite lovely) with what seems to me is going to be a pretty dull (but also anxious) HSC year.
I’m sure things will pick up as we get into studying 1984 together, given that Orwell is one of my literary idols, and the novel is one of my very favourites. Well, that is until we get to essay-writing which will be dull because they are essays written just for an HSC exam. Urgh, it’s so hard to teach a novel for the HSC because it just gets reduced to 12 quotes and some conceptual statements. Sigh. Anyway, this was not a very exciting blog post, and apologies to those two or three of you who have taken the time to read it. I just needed to write out this ‘meh’ feeling… I’m sure by the beginning of Week 4 it’ll be gone, replaced by my joy at meeting my old mate Winston Smith again.