This morning, I came across this article which made me furious for a number of reasons: 

It was not the whole private vs public thing that I was most angry at – it was that once again, I was reading articles valuing schools based on numbers. Deceitful numbers. Numbers that don’t tell the whole story. Numbers that shouldn’t be used to value anything or anyone. 

I did not become a teacher to pump out high ATARs. Call me crazy, but I have never met a teacher whose sole purpose was to create a class of 99.95 students. If that happened one day, I would be a proud teacher of course, but not of myself – I would be proud of the students. 

That day has not come yet and guess what? I am still proud of my students. 

As a teacher in a senior secondary school, I have the privilege of teaching both students who want an ATAR and students who don’t. Students who don’t want an ATAR doesn’t concern me as much as students who want an ATAR but have no idea why or what for. 

Students who don’t want an ATAR usually make this decision with career advisors, parents/carers and tend to have some plan in place (ASBA, etc) to help achieve employment when they graduate. 

On the other hand, students who want an ATAR but don’t know what to do with it have grown up thinking a high ATAR is the key to success in life, the equivalent of an IQ test and/or the way to make their parents proud of them. 

Articles like the one above only perpetuates this pressure and myth.

Seeing students when they receive their ATARs at the end of the year is always bittersweet for me. 
There are a lot of happy faces but there are also a lot of disappointed faces. Faces of students who started off getting Ds and eventually worked their way up to Bs, students who had been carers, living out of home, worked two jobs to support the family, etc. These faces of students who did not get the ATAR that they wanted to get into a course they had applied for, due to a whole heap of reasons that the ATAR doesn’t tell you. These faces that tear up because they think their chances of a bright future is now ripped from them and/or fear their parent’s reaction.

Fact 1: Uni is not for everybody. 

Fact 2: Not everybody will get into, or be successful at uni for various reasons.

Fact 3: Some may not be ready for tertiary studies until they are older

Fact 4: Not everybody who is capable of succeeding at university goes to university.

Where on earth are the studies that look into supporting these students and following their successes? 

Where are the studies about schools that thrive in ensuring that their students grow up to be resilient, determined, driven and well-adjusted global citizens regardless of their ATAR score at the end of Yr 12?

I became a teacher to foster a love of learning in my students, to build their resilience and help them feel connected. 

Measure that.

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