Jocelyn was in my Year 11 class one year. She was a new student who had spent her maximum nine months at an Intensive English Centre. She had come from an African country that had experienced civil war from the 90s. We were told by the Welfare Team to never ask her about it. She lived with her cousin now in Australia.
At first she was quiet and shy but soon became a class favourite. Everyone loved Jocelyn. She was bubbly and friendly. She was two years older than the rest of the students. She would greet me with a massive smile every time she entered the room, “Hello Miss!”.
Jocelyn needed one on one support. She would fail every assessment task. I had a full senior class and it was mixed ability. There were gifted students I was meant to extend. There was the middle range students I had to engage and keep interested. Then there was Jocelyn and another girl who needed a similar level of support. I was in my second year of teaching. Jocelyn did not get the attention from me that she deserved.
The class moved on to Year 12 and a few students dropped the subject. I wanted Jocelyn to drop, there was no way she would cope. She didn’t because she couldn’t. She had done an extra english class in Year 11 and that meant she had to keep all her other subjects.
I used to give the class practice papers to prepare them for the HSC. I would find past exam questions on the topics I had just taught them. They would take them home and answer them. I would mark them and provide feedback. This was optional and on top of their homework. Some students handed them to me for marking every time whilst others never bothered. Jocelyn handed hers in every time.
Her spoken english was good but her written academic english was very poor. She could not understand the questions. She would find a familiar word in the question and look it up in her textbook or class notes. She would copy a paragraph for her answer, often it was a definition. I would try to mark it along with the rest of the class. I would often give her the same feedback. “Jocelyn, your answer does not relate to the question. Try and write your own answers.” I was not a literacy expert. I was stumped as to how to best support her learning. Sometimes, I would help her answer the exam style questions after school. It was never enough time. I didn’t have the time to give her the help she needed. I barely found the time to mark the papers for the class. She didn’t give up though. She finished Year 12.
Jocelyn found me after the graduation ceremony. “Miss! Take a photo with me!” I hated taking photos but I could not say no to her. After a 10 minute photo session with her entourage I congratulated her for finishing high school. We hugged and said goodbye.
The HSC results came out on the last teaching day of the year. “We got three band 1s”, I was told as soon as I entered the staffroom. Our school hated Band 1s. They made us look bad.
I looked at the list and sure enough Jocelyn received a Band 1 in my subject. I didn’t care. I knew she had tried her absolute best.
*Jocelyn is not her real name
*HSC stands for Higher School Certificate. It consists of standardised exams all Year 12 students in NSW, Australia sit for at the end of their schooling.
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