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Strivers, pranksters, writers, gangsters: what a year group

College life can become a yearly grind, but when you look back at your career in your dotage, it’s those rare crops of stand-out students that you’ll remember most fondly

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College life can become a yearly grind, but when you look back at your career in your dotage, it’s those rare crops of stand-out students that you’ll remember most fondly

It’s the end of the academic year at my place. While the audible collective sigh of relief echoes from dance studio to media lab, it’s time to reflect on what the year has brought us (apart from a major headache for me as an English teacher trying to figure out the new GCSE spec, as well as a way to enthuse students about the new GCSE spec).

Now, I’m not the most sentimental of folk. I don’t get misty-eyed at the passing of another college year. There’s not enough time for that type of thing because as soon as you’ve got one lot out, you’re trying your best to shove another lot in during enrolment. But this year has been different.

I’m nearing the 10-year mark working in FE, and against the grain of the repetitive, cyclical nature of college life. While details often become hazy, as classes merge into classes, terms merge into terms and years merge into years, this one has stood out, primarily because of the students I’ve had.

Like I said, I’m not sentimental. But here’s the stone-cold truth of it: when it comes to classes, some years are good, some are bad and some are a complete pain in the unmentionables.

This year (praise be to whichever gods of education were looking down on my timetable scheduling) was an unabridged joy.

What was it that will make me remember the key players from this year’s cohort when I’m old, tartan-blanket wrapped, a little confused yet probably still working owing to the shrinking size of my pension?

Characters. Every class was just absolutely chock-full of characters. Lots of comedians (actual funny ones). A fair few rebels without a clue. Strivers. Romantics with hearts of gold. Drama weavers. Dancers. Plastic gangsters and their entourage. Quiet thinkers. Creative writers. Ones that have come on leaps and bounds and ones that have steadfastly failed to budge an inch, but gave it a shot anyway. Children and the parents of children. Clowns and politicians. The woke and the terminally daft.

It’s been a bumper crop of characters this year and although I’ve been pretty much exhausted by them, it’s never been dull. They’ve also all, to a greater or lesser extent, tried their socks off (which is always nice).

So in the years to come, I’m going to look back at this time extremely fondly, especially now that I’ve probably jinxed it by writing this, and from this point on it’ll be open warfare in my classes from 8.30am to 4.30pm until kingdom come.

It has made me appreciate that the college experience for me is primarily at the mercy of those in front of me. Not management, not staff, but the students. Hopefully I’ve done something to help this lot on their way and hopefully they got as much out of their time with me as I did from my time with them. This year I’m not sure who has helped whom more.

OK. Maybe I am a bit sentimental.

Tom Starkey is a teacher, writer and consultant on education technology. He tweets @tstarkey1212

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