Any change management guru or leadership coach will tell you that change takes time. Google ‘change’ and you can find a squillion Hallmark-esque memes with pictures of flying clocks or trees spouting some tired old cliche about progress and how slow it is, and how people take time to change, and how you need all people on board.
The problem with tired clichés is that they’re tired. And they’re clichés. But conversely, substitute ‘tired’ for ‘wise’ and ‘cliché’ for ‘truth’ and, well, even this stubborn, impatient and often bullish English teacher acknowledges that you can’t argue with a wise truth. (Trust me, I tried once, and my Greek Yaya threw her slipper at me.)
So, as my last blog post as an Associate, it’s fitting to reflect on the change I observed in the final English class I had with my year 11s.
I have taught that particular cohort of students for two years. They were my very first class at the beginning of 2014, and have been my biggest teachers. So much of what I now know about teaching and learning came from them. They have been the source of my greatest joys and my biggest headaches.
In other blog posts, I have discussed the fact that so many of my students live in an isolated environment, not only geographically, but in terms of the ideas and diversity of cultures they are exposed to. Opinions spouted often expose very limited, often xenophobic, outdated world-views. I often felt completely overwhelmed by their ignorance and their views that so challenged the very core of what I believe to be true. Discussions in class were always difficult, and their ability to express an idea (even one that was totally crude) was limited.
Their final English assessment for the year was a persuasive speech. They could choose any topic they liked. We brainstormed some ideas together, but there were absolutely no restrictions.
I sat in awe as this group of wonderful young people took turns at the lectern and proceeded to argue that our society continues to operate within patriarchal structures; that gun control is an ongoing issue in Australia and overseas; that racism continues to be an issue in society and in sport; that domestic violence affects men and women and our society needs to do more to eradicate the problem; that gay marriage must be made legal for a fair an equitable society.
I listened with such pride as they spoke eloquently, made eye contact, presented well-researched arguments, used humour and personal anecdotes and one by one, convinced me that what they were saying was right.
I was filled with admiration for them. They have come so far in their learning, in their willingness to listen to each other and share opinions, in their readiness to consider difference perspectives and ideas, in their knowledge of the world!
So I guess change really does take time. And, as someone once said, ‘There’s no present like the time.’