I suppose it must be the nature of this profession to feel that the graduating class that just left was the best you have ever taught. I suppose if you didn’t think that then you wouldn’t have much impact on the group you were teaching. But there are many reasons to think that this might be more than experiential this time.
It the first place it was the largest group we have ever graduated: over 300 students, enough that we needed to have two graduation ceremonies, separated by a very nice buffet lunch. In the second place we had some of the highest marks we have ever awarded. My top student, Yeo Yih Tang, secured a 96% average in English, and fully earned every point of that with essays that easily could have served to secure him entrance to a master’s program. And that was his lowest mark! His science and computer science marks were 100%!
Thirdly we had some of the most engaging and entertaining personalities we have ever had. Our school president, Nizhan, was a constant source of good natured fun in class, and his questions and contributions to class were as pertinent and insightful as they were enjoyable. We had talented musicians and amazing dance troupes, dedicated social workers who tirelessly assisted in the refugee schools that we help sponsor, and supportive and hardworking academics who constantly challenged us to do our very best as teachers.
They might also be the end of a very good run as a school. The government is making noises about cutting back on the scholarship program next year. If they follow through on that proposal our school body will be drastically different in the years to come. It is the scholars who make this program distinctive. Their drive for excellence has given this program an enviable reputation as one of the best in the country. Their numbers ensure a good supply of Canadian teaching talent that although it is constantly changing, seems to constantly improve. This is without question the best staff I have worked with in nearly forty years of teaching.
But then, as I say, it is the nature of my profession to think that whatever just finished can’t be surpassed. After a short – two week! – break I will be back in Malaysia looking to do even better next term. But before I go, a sincere thanks to all my students who have challenged and confronted, encouraged and supported me in my efforts to draw out of them their very best. May your university experience, wherever you end up, be all the more rewarding for the efforts you have made to improve your capacity this year.