My coachee was unfamiliar with the expression “can’t see the wood for the trees”, so I explained that it means losing sight of the whole pattern because details grow and grow at an alarming rate. This is a state many HSC students find themselves in. So how to guard against it?
Photo by Neil Whitfield 2008: artificial forest at the Sydney Chinese Garden
Make sure you read and understand the course description. My coachee and I are working on the Frankenstein and Blade Runner pair. The first thing to note is that the module is called TEXTS IN TIME: TEXTS AND CONTEXTS. That is the wood.
This module requires students to COMPARE TEXTS in order to EXPLORE THEM IN RELATION TO THEIR CONTEXTS. It develops students’ understanding of THE EFFECTS OF CONTEXT and QUESTIONS OF VALUE…
Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes of context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content values and attitudes being conveyed…
OK, that means:
1. You need to know what issues or themes of interest each text embodies. In our two, for example, one can think of: the moral/ethical issues in science and technology; the need for companionship or love; what it is to be human; what is “natural”… And so on. It does not greatly matter what the issues are, so long as they are important ones and are major issues in both Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Your teacher and your class will no doubt determine perhaps two or three big ideas to hang your readings on.
2. You need to appreciate what was being thought, said and done around the time each text was composed: 1818 in one case, and 1982 in the other. Consider also where each text was composed. How does what you discover about this explain why each text may have been composed? Be careful here. It can be tempting to write history or philosophy and forget about the actual texts. Not a good idea.
3. Having found an issue, explore where and how it is presented in each text. Don’t forget to be specific rather than general. Find key passages or scenes. Look closely at the techniques used in their making. Then ask “Why is this passage/scene like this?” What in the context may have shaped the way it has been done? What in the context made this issue of sufficient interest to the composer and his/her readers and viewers? Where does the composer stand on it? What does the composer regard as important, or troubling, or worth arguing for or against on this issue? Now you will be exploring values and attitudes.
4. There are also genre issues to think about: The Gothic, science fiction, dystopias, film noir… Why have these genres thrived at various points in history? Why have they persisted? What is the relation of our two texts to these genres?
It really is hard to coordinate all this thinking. Anyone who tells you the HSC has been dumbed down is just plain dumb! I know that I never had to do anything half as difficult in my final year of high school in 1959! The good thing is that the issues raised in these texts really are interesting – and important!
So, good luck. Also, any suggestions about how to organise the material in an exam-friendly way will no doubt be appreciated by others. You may use the comment space here for that, if you care to.
The truth is out there
Yes, you are also lucky. There is so much good material to explore, some of it suggested on my previous post on this….
In today’s Sydney Morning Herald two once-familiar faces illustrating They topped the HSC over the past 40 years – what are they doing now?
Jason Hui (left) who topped the state in the 1988 HSC, is now a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney.
I remember them both but not from Year 12 as 1988 I was at Masada College in St Ives.
Actually I have gone through 50 years of HSC, though out of the fray for the last eight. Some tutoring in Sydney’s Chinatown in 2010 was my last hurrah.
Now as for FIFTY years ago see Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family.
1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.
Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories. Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.
1978 I was on secondment to teacher training at the University of Sydney, but knew the Class of 78 at Wollongong High.
1988 is already covered. 1998 I was at Sydney Boys High again. Also finishing my Grad Cert TESOL at UTS.
Students at Sydney Boys High School sit their HSC English exam on October 25, 1981.
Photo from Essential Kids.
More on Jason Hui — found online.
HSC stars 10 years on (Edited Extract From “Sunday Life” January ’99)
Jason Hui, 27, of Sydney Boys’ High, came first in the state in 1988 with 496. He studied 4U maths, 2U English, 2U physics, 2U chemistry and 2U economics and is a doctor.
When he arrived in Australia at 13, Hui’s English skills were poor. He started year 9 and could barely understand the teacher.
His parents had sent him and his older brother out from Hong Kong to study. They boarded with an Australian family throughout high school and their parents visited when they could. “If you come from overseas with the aim of studying and going to university, you tend to be very focused and less distracted by other things. As the HSC drew closer I just studied whenever there was time. But I loved maths, physics and chemistry so it wasn’t a burden.
“Working hard was the norm in my school. It was a fantastic year with a lot of very bright people—there were two 4-Unit maths classes. I think we all pushed each other along and there was a lot of competition. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as well at another school.”
At the time, Hui was tossing up between medicine and engineering and says he probably chose medicine “because there were a lot of engineers in my family and I wanted to do something different.” Looking back, it was the right choice. I can’t imagine myself in anything different.
“The amazing thing about medicine is you never stop learning. At each stage you encounter new situations and you have new and difficult decisions to make. That’s what makes it so interesting.”
Hui did six years at Sydney University, sharing the University Medal with Mark Gorbatov (88)—a former Sydney Boys’ classmate who came second in the HSC in the same year with 495.
“When I did the HSC, people said it was the hardest exam you ever did. At Uni, you quickly realise that is totally untrue. Exams get harder as you become more advanced and studying and working at the same time is much harder. To work 9-10 hours a day and then get home, have dinner and spend three or four more hours studying is very difficult.”
And that sparks my memory! I recall — and this was before my getting expertise in teaching English as a second language — seeing in 1985-6 that Jason had a problem. I referred him to a then neighbour of mine in Chippendale — unfortunately I can’t recall his name: a delightful young man who was then doing Linguistics at Sydney University under the famous Professor Michael Halliday and Dr Jim Martin. The neighbour gave Jason some help with his English.
Just a few memories…
I was skimming the Sydney Morning Herald’s glossy free mag just now, checking out whether I was on the list of Sydney’s Top 100 Influential People… 😉 Many of the usual suspects were there, and quite a few I hadn’t thought of. It is one of those that really attracted my attention.
There under Community was Jack Manning Bancroft.
Now there was a familiar name: Class of 2002 at SBHS!
So how at the age of 23 did Jack get into the Top 100?
Jack is the founder of the AIME Program. He graduated from Media and Communication in 2006, and attended St Pauls College in his time at university. He was awarded the inaugural ANZ Indigenous Scholarship for his degree, and received the Sydney University Union Leadership and Excellence award in 2005. He is a member of the Bundjalung nation in the North Coast of NSW. Jack hopes to lead AIME to every university in the country in the next 5 years.
Click on the screen grab to explore AIME. It is well worth it!
And in 2018: Mentoring — The Key to a Fairer World
I found some blog references to Jack and his work.
Indigenous Literacy Day by Judith Ridge (September 2008) says:
Tonight I went to the launch of Bronwyn Bancroft‘s beautiful new picture book, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words at Gleebooks. The book is, as you would expect if you know Bronwyn’s work, quite stunning. The images are striking and vibrant, and the colour reproduction remarkable. And a great celebration of indigenous Australian language.
Possum and Wattle was launched by Linda Burney, who spoke of of the terrible loss of Aboriginal languages (which she rightly said are, of course, Australian languages) while reminding us that all Australians are in fact speakers of Aboriginal Language. Each time we speak certain place names, or of native flora and fauna, even certain idioms, we are speaking Aboriginal Language.
Bronwyn spoke of the importance of education and literacy, especially for Aboriginal Australians. Her own father was excluded from formal education because of his Aboriginality. Now her children are school and university students and graduates, and she is about to embark on her PhD—just one generation away from that exclusion. And there is no education without literacy…
I also have to mention Bronwyn’s son, Jack Manning Bancroft, who spoke at the launch about the organisation he heads up, AIME Mentoring (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). AIME pairs Aboriginal university student volunteers with Aboriginal high school students in a one-to-one mentoring project that aims to support young Aboriginal students in education. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and it’s something I want to learn more about. Jack was strong and heartfelt as he spoke about the value of the program, which hinges on the dedication of the current generation of young Aboriginal people to get out there and do something practical to support each other. As it says in the “About” section of their website, AIME is action. Fantastic. (And I am really curious—must ask Bronwyn about this—my grandfather’s middle name was also Manning, after the river/region where he was born. I guess that means Bronwyn’s people come from there, as mine do, although so much more recently.)
A blog called Event Mechanics promotes 2007’s Indigenous Carnivale, and quotes another blog to this effect:
A very cool, and damn motivated and inspiring bloke, called Jack Manning-Bancroft is helping organise the above day. He writes: “We welcome you all to this years Indigenous Carnivale. On Saturday the 26th of May it will be National Sorry Day. We will pay our respects to those who have suffered in the past, we will pay our respects to those who continue to suffer, and we will offer nothing but respect to each other. This is our arena. This is our community. This is our time.”
Running alongside Carnivale is it’s big brother AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) – where Jack’s helping me to do some mentoring work. It’s a mentoring program that works with High school Indigenous students. All of the profits from Carnivale will go to its big brother AIME.
Before his head was removed, Sir Walter Ralegh wrote this magnificent lyric:
Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust ;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days ;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust !
So here am I, not in the Tower of London contemplating execution of course, but in a Surry Hills flat contemplating the $1400 Mister Rudd so thoughtfully placed in my bank account yesterday. (Very handy to cover a couple of debts, and maybe to buy a new pair of boots…) I contemplate also that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of my comparatively undistinguished leave-taking from Sydney Boys High – well I did win a History Prize after all, I suppose.
My niece was in contemplative mood a little, I think, in her Christmas letter, which I also received yesterday. Her family has had an eventful year and have done many interesting things, some of them reflecting how The Shire these days reaches out to the world in a way that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago when, as it happens, my niece was born. They are a rather good looking family too, as you may glimpse on the left… The daughter is a promising dancer, I mean seriously promising. Rather proud of them I am, though through circumstances I have seen less of them than I may have done. You may recall we all got together in Julywhen my brother visited from Tasmania.
I can recall having a few “my God! a quarter of a century!” thoughts when I turned 25, and then, as my niece mentions of herself, even greater wonder when I turned 50 – M gave me a magnificent party – and of course this year I went on the pension, which means I am now…
And looking back through my bits and pieces (right) I see how quickly the kids I have taught have grown up and made their ways in the world, some of them with great distinction, or making important contributions of one kind or another – one I mentioned just the other day.
I have every confidence in the young.
Now, what kind of boots will I buy? A good choice will last me at least three years, as the last pair has…
In another age of recession Henry Lawson wrote of an even deeper level of misfortune:
When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.
I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.
I am well stocked with pants…
Surry Hills prepares to party
Now that’s not something that happens often, but it has been a rather full morning, which took me first to this balcony in East Redfern. And yes, more in line for the photoblog! (The two entries there today went up on autopilot, having been preloaded yesterday.)
Where, looking down…
Then to The Mine. On the way home I ran into an ex-student, Andrew Goodwin (1996), who now lives in England – a Cambridge scientist in fact. Coached him in Debating once…
Friday I’m off to The Mine English Department end-of-year party…
Meanwhile all those things are happening out there in the world, and you are deprived of my deathless prose on any of them… I hope you can survive. 😉
You may read about Andrew Goodwin and quite a few other bright young Aussie scientists on this PDF document: Science Olympians.
Nice eBook that I have been reading through. It is a good compendium of sensible theory and practice.
When I came to this I could not but visualise someone we all know!
Unacceptable Responses To Student Misbehavior
•raising your voice
•saying, “I’m the boss here!”
•insisting on having the last word
•using tense body language (crossed arms or clenched fists)
•using degrading, insulting, humiliating, or embarrassing putdowns
•attacking the student’s character…
bringing up unrelated events
•generalizing about students (“Kids knew how to act in my day” or All you kids are the same!”)
•making unsubstantiated accusations
Here I am this morning at a seasonally festive City Diggers Club.
My visitor here last Sunday afternoon said I looked furrier than when he had seen me last.
It was great to see Les Farnell again, who called in en route between Canberra and Sydney. His partner was the late Graeme Little, a great man in English teaching circles. Graeme I first met in his capacity as Inspector of Schools back in the early 1970s. My friendship with Les and Graeme dates back to the 1980s.