I enjoy teaching. It is a second major career for me and I chose to enter the profession at a later age than usual. As a consequence I am able to inspire and motivate the students to a love of History and life-long learning by modeling my own commitment to these ideals.
Although maintaining a professional distance from my students I, nevertheless, get to know each and every one of them, their capacities as students, their interests and their individual needs. I provide academic and pastoral support for them, both inside and outside the classroom.
The following is part of the Thank You speech at the Year 10 Formal in 2002 in which the students acknowledged my contribution to their school life by saying
"As we approach our senior years of schooling, we all appreciate the respect we receive from most teachers. We feel it necessary to thank these teachers, but there's a few in particular that need a special mentioning (sic) that do much more for us than any of us care to realise; One of these is Mrs. Brady, she can happily have a joke with you and she sticks up for our grade, whether it is for more playing space for the year 10 boys, or even just having a person to talk to ... Mrs. Brady is a champion teacher who has supported us through our "unpredictable years" and who we as a grade love and would like to thank very much for her teachings (sic) and support throughout the years."
I have received many other acknowledgements of my contribution to students' lives. The Dive family acknowledged my contribution to their children's education, and their comments may be accessed here. Another student, Ben, who marched to the beat of a very different drum, also benefited and his parents wrote to thank me for "all of your care and efforts towards Ben during his schooling at the H.G.S. (sic). You have accepted him for what he is and managed to offer him your passion and enthusiasm for not just history or car rallying but for life in general". Another student sent me an email after receiving her HSC results.
This is an excerpt from a speech made to the 2003 Junior School Presentation Assembly by an ex-student who graduated a few years ago and is currently enrolled at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. He was a student in my Stage 6 Modern History class and his words exemplify the self confidence and intellectual curiosity I engender in my students. Another ex-student expressed similar ideas in a letter written to me after her acceptance into a government job. In it she stated that "it was the Arab-Israeli component of the 2u history that set me on this path ... I hope ... you are continuing to inspire your students to greatness".This particular student is currently in Iraq working on behalf of the Australian Government.
An overseas student, whom I mentored through Year 11 and Year 12, lived in difficult circumstances throughout those years and was, effectively, on his own. He came to see me as his "Australian mum" and his mother wrote me a lovely letter of thanks for the support I gave him throughout this time. Not only did he do well in his Higher School Certificate but he went on to University and success.
Support for students in the face of adversity can and does take many forms. During the recent Half Yearly Examinations one student of mine in Year 8 experienced a complete blank when it came to writing an answer to the long writing task. I have demonstrated to the students in class how important it is to plan writing tasks, and this student called on those lessons to help her get over her crisis. Instead of just giving up and throwing so many marks away she sat there, wrote one or two words related to the question, thought, wrote some more words and, as she did so, more came back to her. In the end she wrote almost two pages for the question. I was on duty during this crisis but was relieved by another staff member before the end of the examination. I wrote a brief note to the student for the replacement teacher to give her at the end. In that note I wrote that it did not matter what mark she would achieve for her effort with that question because she had achieved more for herself, by not giving up but keeping on trying, than could ever be measured by marks. She came to see me after the exam and thanked me for my encouragement. Incidentally she achieved a raw mark of 14/20 for that writing task.
One important aspect of all my teaching is positive reinforcement. No matter how good or how bad the work, there is always something positive to say. No matter whether an answer is right or wrong in class, that answer is encouraged because it shows that the student is thinking independently.
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