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Teachers add the finishing touch

By Kristie Kellahan

Leaders of year 12 VCE classes must keep an eye on the goal, writes Kristie Kellahan.

This month, as more than 80,000 year 12 students sit for their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) exams, thousands of teachers will cheer them on. Teachers report that preparing students for final-year assessments can be challenging, time-consuming and highly rewarding.

Angela Arena teaches year 12 legal studies at McKinnon Secondary College. She says that readying her two classes for their coming exam started at the beginning of the year.

"I do my best to get to know my students, what they want to achieve in my subject, and how I can best support each student with their individual learning needs," Arena says. "Working with students on practice papers is the best way to revise for the exams; however, it can be daunting to try and tackle a year's worth of content at once."

Arena advises other teachers to use all the learning activities and assessment done during the year as a way of informing final revision. She also suggests reading past assessors' reports to see the topics that students find difficult, and paying special attention to those.

"My students are encouraged to give me as many practice papers as they can, and to come and see me for a chat or send an email whenever they need to outside of class," Arena says.

"I hope that they do, so I can monitor their revision, continue to give them valuable feedback and keep stress levels down."

Arena says success in the VCE involves a close relationship between teacher and students. "Teaching year 12s isn't like other levels, because there is an end point in mind that you're continually working towards and each student has their goal of what they want to achieve.

"My goal is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to experience success. It's hard work and very stressful at times, but I can't think of a better job."

This is the fourth time Catherine McMahon has taught year 12 English at Coburg Senior High School.

"I have a strong interest in creating the conditions for all students to achieve success, no matter their background or circumstances," she says.

"I've been interested in the preconditions for successful outcomes for all students, particularly moving away from the more traditional way of teaching and learning, an imperative when working with the 'connected generation'."

McMahon says Coburg Senior is a cutting-edge school experimenting with curriculum delivery using technology. She advises other teachers to harness its full potential: "Create slide shows and podcast them so you can direct students to these when they need them."

When they need support, she says, "Engage and motivate them, and create teaching and learning plans within the prescriptive VCE study design that caters for individual needs".

"You can't do it on your own, so talk about your ideas and challenges with your colleagues."

Published: 27 October 2012

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