Students have a way with words. I don’t mean that only as praise, but find myself enjoying the texts made spontaneously in the classroom, when students are given the freedom to think and write as they please. “What made you happy,” I asked my history class, “or sad, or surprised, or confused?” This at the end of a class about movements for rights and freedoms in the twentieth century, including feminism and decolonisation. I asked them to post their thoughts in the relevant quadrant of the board. Who knew that teenagers were so happy?
One of the many sticky-notes I’ll treasure reads: “the groups and different fun engaging work was much better than plain text book questions. It was fun!”
Things became more somber in the next lesson, on the Stolen Generations. Students read one of four personal stories from the Bringing Them Home report, in which Indigenous people who’d been removed from their families speak about their lives. The task was to summarise the meaning or effect of the story, then work in groups to synthesise four such summaries into one statement that connects them all. Again, student language caught my breath. “The Aborigines were stolen, and not only they were stolen, but their childhood and identity,” one group wrote. Another wrote, with disarming concision: “after troubled lives, people are moving on.” I had no words.