The story beyond Grade 12

Our Grade 12 students will soon be released from our care and although their time at ISM has come to an end, they are very much beginning something exciting and new. So I thought about what words of advice I could impart to these students.

As a teacher of English my life revolves around words. I teach students about language – how to spell, all about the differences between simple and sophisticated vocabulary, what word to use and most importantly how to put words together so that it means something. Our lives, yours and mine, fundamentally revolve around words and our ability to express ourselves. Because our words are who we are. When our words mean something, our life has meaning.

But don’t just take my word for it, some of the great literary masters from around the world teach us very important lessons about life:

We learn in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby not to judge others with one of the very first lines of the text reading, ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

In Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, we learn about the importance of family and of being an independent person. It is An-Mei who says, “You must think for yourself. If someone tells you what you must do, then you are not trying.

In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible we learn about truth and consequences and about why protecting your reputation is important. Because just like John Proctor realises,“It is your name! Because you cannot have another in your life!”

In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner we understand true friendship and what happens when you are paralyzed into silence. It is Amir who says “I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had.”

Shakespeare’s Macbeth teaches us all about appearance and reality – the face we give out to the world – and the consequences that come from looking like an innocent flower, but being a serpent underneath. It also taught us to be careful with our ambition.

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold we learnt quite simply that the end is oftentimes just the beginning.

And we learn two things from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, firstly that if you always have your head bowed down in submission then all you will see of the world are feet, and secondly that even when we believe that our lives are being unfairly controlled, that there is always, always a way out.

We learn as much about the world from the way it is written as we do when we live it every day. The Grade 12s will soon be released from our care and become completely in control of their narrative. They get to choose their own fate. They write their own life story from this point forward.

And so we begin to close the chapter on this part of their lives. I call it a chapter, because the majority of the story is still unwritten. I am sure that it will be exciting and coloured, full of rising tension and resolution, highs and lows and as for the characters…they are the most interesting of all. 

#ISMainfranken #IBDP

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