The resurrection in the corner of the Duns 2020 is just one of the many unexpected things thrown at us, and it could very easily be avoided.
I’m well into my third decade of teaching, a job I really like. I get such a buzz from watching students progress and it is a privilege to witness their personal growth while studying. Knowing that you have played an active role in their development gives extraordinary job satisfaction, but the icing on the cake is when they take the time to tell you.
I had a message from a student I taught a decade ago during the lockdown. He used his time in isolation to find people on social media and reconnect with them. He updated me on his career path and completed the message by thanking me for my lessons from years ago.
“You encouraged us to be inclusive and to treat everyone with respect, dignity and wisdom. That class helped me with my soft and social skills, for which I am grateful. ”When you meet past students years later, most teachers will tell you that it is nothing more than the course content they mention in their memories.
I have been actively avoiding public communication with any student for over 20 years and in my view they are below class. As a result, the estimated grading process for leaving Cert 2020 is the hardest job I have ever been able to complete.
All my qualifications and experience tell me how inappropriate this is. Aside from the credibility of the grading, what is the purpose and validity of ranking students? Also, if anything, where is the value of the student finding their ranking?
This was the plan until last week when the Department of Education received legal advice to release the class rankings in the wake of teacher setbacks. It is not yet certain whether students will receive this data immediately.
Regardless of this, has it not happened to anyone that there will be students who study exactly what is considered the foundation of the class in each subject? For 18 months they sat in their living certificate classrooms so they knew exactly how many students were in each group. This information does not hide the cruelty of the impact it may have on some young people.
If they are released, will the first place winners plaster their achievements across social media? As in previous years, will newspapers present students with the highest number of H1s nationwide? Will coverage be extended to higher-ranking people across the board?
In response to that, a rush of social media posts in August every year assures students that the Living Cert results they have just received are not defining. While that is certainly true, it has always been on my part that the results give some value to clear performance and that we should not underestimate what it implies and what we can learn from it.
The greatest power
My mantra is that everyone in front of me can always do something good, and I will find out what it is before our study journey ends. So often the greatest strength is not learning, but soft skill, and human quality is what many peers take years to come to the best of their ability. I almost agree with the flock that I love working in schools as an opportunity to cultivate and nurture personal relationships each year.
Every year when the first year comes, a new partnership is guaranteed, and we celebrate the end of the six-year journey of graduating Living Cert. In that final year fellowship there may be students we have taught for six years (although we try to give students the benefit of the different teacher styles and approaches in our school), and others who know reputation we have never taught (good or bad!).
When staff mentions, different names emit different reactions: suffering, sighs, eyes to heaven, events and jokes we often laugh about when we have to suppress our grins and hold our power in front of students.
With the smallest exceptions, colleagues share staff rooms with their students with the utmost respect, and prepare them to find the best in themselves for the post-secondary school world.
For the 2020 Living Cert students and all the teachers who share my anger, here are my thoughts on how crucial it is not to let the “results” you get define you:
Remember the relationship we had in class? Because that’s how I remember you. Let’s keep it that way.
This grading process involves a small proportion of your school education, which does not count for anything. Goalposts have changed for us as teachers, so we know how you feel more than you understand. If there is any pain, anger or frustration when you see your results, remember this:
The teachers did not want to do this.
The teachers did not think this was a good idea.
Teachers struggled with this task.
Engaging in this task will not tarnish our memories of the time we spent together, and we hope the results do not tarnish yours.
Several educators have spoken publicly about their concerns about the process.
The results really tell you a lot more than you say, which is more true than a year before Cert 2020 left.