An open letter to Year 11, from your English teacher

Haili Hughes implores Year 11 pupils to remember that, even though their exams have been cancelled, it doesn't mean that all of their learning has been for nothing

Woman prepares to write letter

Dear Year 11,

On what may be your last few days in school, I wanted to pen this letter on behalf of your teachers. This is very personal to me, but will also reflect how so many of your own teachers will be feeling right now.

I remember when I first started this GCSE journey with you: explaining to you that these two years would go so quickly, and that we had such a huge amount of content and skills to cover that we all had to remain focused and give it our all. We never could have envisaged it would end like this. 

We have been on poetic journeys together, travelling through hundreds of years and using our empathy skills to understand what life was like for people through the ages – living in different times from us, but connected by the fact that we are all human. 

We struggled through Macbeth. We worked out the archaic language as we went along, and had hilarious conversations about the porter and his “lechery”. There are times when you’ve been fed up of me using certain words: “judicious” “perceptive” and, of course, “what/how/why?” 

We learned, we laughed, we lived

You ploughed through past papers, honing your timing. You attended before-school interventions and after-school revision classes, despite feeling exhausted and just wanting to go home and chill out in front of Netflix.

Please remember: just because there are now no exams, it doesn’t mean that it was all for nothing. We learned, we laughed, and we lived.

The things you learned in your English lessons and across the curriculum will shape your thoughts and ideologies, and who you are as a person. They will make you truly human. 

All your teachers are at a loss as to what to say to you. The future is uncertain, but the same dreams you dreamed until now will still be relevant and achievable for you after this whole nightmare is over. 

We believe in you, and this will all work out in the end – although we know the uncertainty and confusion is scary right now.

You've been robbed – and so have we

No doubt you are all mourning the cancelling of your exciting last few weeks as secondary-school students. It’s unfair that you may be robbed of the shirt and yearbook signings, of the prom that you’ve so been looking forward to. 

Like you, we have also been robbed: of witnessing the culmination of your growth over the last five years, and waving you off at the gates as you head into your exciting futures.

Each year, we look forward to results day: to watching so many students’ delight when they open their envelopes. And we hope that we can offer encouraging words to those who are disappointed. 

The irony is that, over the last few months, many of you will have looked forward to this day – telling yourself that you couldn’t wait to leave school, and that you were fed up of the rules, the routines and the regulations. 

But now, more than ever, you will need the structure and support that school provides for you, as you navigate uncertain times. I speak on behalf of all of your teachers: we are here for you. 

So please, stay safe. And know that, whatever happens, we will weather this storm together. We are proud of you – exam results or not. 

Your teacher x

Haili Hughes is an English teacher at Saddleworth School in Oldham, Greater Manchester. She tweets @HughesHaili

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