It has to be a thin world surely if you ask for
an emblem at every turn, if you cannot see bees
arcing and mining the soft decaying galaxies
of the laden apricot tree without wanting
symbols—–which of course are manifold*—–symbols
of so much else?
The lines above come from one of the texts in the English HSC Paper 1 Exam on Wednesday of this week. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that “‘[The] first half of the poem made me feel like I lost the ability to read,” one student said. Another wrote: “I could not understand.’”
Students were asked to ‘Analyse how O’Sullivan captures the idea of being in the moment’ in this poem...
When sharing this article with some RCC Stage 6 students they identified with it straight away. ‘That’s exactly how I felt,’ they said. Others simply nodded and smiled, clearly rejoicing that English was done and there was no longer a need to validate apricots and moments; they could go back to relishing the pure joy of watching a movie and not analysing or being grilled on the filmmaker’s techniques…
You and I both know though that this will not be the case. When they read or watch from here on in, there will be spikes, moments where they will naturally over-analyse or see deeper meaning in the symbols.
Life has taught me that once I do hard things, once I strive and wrestle to overcome or when I persist and do things of worth that are too difficult or tumultuous and I finish them, the impact is eternal. It doesn’t matter what I desire, the legacy of that event shapes me.
It is no different to the story in the Old Testament (Genesis 32) when Jacob wrestles with an angel of God (some say God himself) until he is blessed by Him. Jacob refuses to let go until he is blessed. Jacob’s wrestle and persistence results in him receiving a lasting limp and a name change to Israel, meaning ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Whilst this is a brief summary, and I encourage you for your own growth to have a read, the metaphorical implications for us are clear. Like with Jacob, our desire for our students, and ourselves I am sure, is to engage in the wrestle that leads to blessing because we know it will have a lasting impact. Whether the reminder of that blessing is a limp, or unwanted film analysis, the reminder of the blessing of perseverance is so important.
Our role as educators, and yours as parents or guardians, nans or pops is to enable our kids to engage in the wrestle and not give up, because blessing (in its many forms) comes in the morning. We know this and it is critical we empower our students to do what it takes to know it also.
Whilst I know our students want to be done with the stress and pain that comes with study, we don’t ever want the effects of their rigour or perseverance to be lost. We must empower our students to see the value in the wrestle not just in the now as Vincent O’Sullivan says in the closing line of the poem:
‘Come on, you have to try one!’, and you do,
and the clamour of bees goes on above us, ‘This
will do’, both of us saying, ‘like this, being here!’
But, also in the future as the Good Book says…
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Apostle Paul (Romans 5)
Blessing upon you as carers and on our students as they enter a time of testing, especially our HSC students.
May success be in the fruit of their character.