My Final Words of Wisdom

It’s been ages since I last blogged. It’s not that I have nothing to write about. There is a huge backlog of posts that are just waiting to be written! To be frank, I simply have not been in the mood lately. Until last week, I was so busy at school that the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was think about work some more.

Now that the DP students are done class and preparing for exams, the workload has become more manageable and I will catch up on all that I’ve been meaning to write about, including detailed reflections and evaluations on my biology classes. Before I do though I wanted to mention that last week was my final class with my grade 11 biology SL students….ever. Since I am leaving my school next year, I will lose the opportunity to be their teacher for another year. To be honest I did not realize how emotional it would make me. It took me about three or four attempts to even start reading them the letter written below. I wanted to leave them with a few last words so here they are. They are not polished or edited. They are just my raw feelings, lofty ambitions and humble gratitudes. I apologize in advance for the cheesiness.

My dear students,

I can’t believe it’s our final class of the year already. Where did the time go? As excited as I am for the future, I’m saddened by the fact that this is the last time that I will officially be your teacher. Although it has been my job to teach you about the structure of the villus, antibiotic resistance, meiosis I and II etc…there are a few more important lessons that I’ve tried to impart. Here are some things I hope you will take away from this class beyond the biology curriculum.

Be independent and confidant in yourselves. You don’t need a teacher to spoon feed you everything in order to be successful. You are capable. You have access to more information in your pockets than I could ever give you in my career. I hope I have been there enough to coach you and facilitate that independent learning process. Teachers are here to advise and guide you – not to baby you. And on that note…

Lecturing is not teaching, it’s telling. There’s a difference between listening and learning.

You don’t have to know everything all the time. If you did – school would be futile. It’s ok to say “I don’t’ know” or to proffer an answer that may be incorrect. No one’s judging you. When you do figure it out, that’s called learning!

Learning is supposed to be tough and it takes time. Don’t be afraid to tackle a difficult concept on your own, struggle with it for a while and then ask for help. There’s no shame in that. Your teachers are there to assist you. I guarantee the learning will be more meaningful and long lasting when you have had to overcome an obstacle. You will feel more accomplished when you experience that moment of clarity. If someone just dictates an answer to you, you will forget it all five minutes later. That’s not authentic learning.

Learning can go beyond the classroom. There are interesting and highly knowledgeable people in your community and you should reach out to them. Invite them to be part of your learning journey. They will enrich your lives with experiences no textbook can provide. And hopefully they will inspire you. Remember that time you held a pacemaker in your hands? Or learned how to diagnose a brain tumor with an X ray? That wouldn’t have happened without the help of our community experts.

It’s ok to fail. In fact, if you are not failing every once in a while, it’s a sign you are not growing. In order to grow you must make mistakes, take time to reflect, and learn from them. If you are making the same mistakes over and over – that’s where you have a problem.

Aim high. Set challenging goals and standards for yourself. Then rise to the occasion.

It’s not all about the exam all the time. Believe it or not, there are more important things in life than the IB exam. How are you making a positive difference in the world? Try to find a way to take what you have learned in class and make an impact. The blood drive campaign you created, the antibiotic resistance infographics you designed – those are not “IB” assessments. But they are a way to use what you have learned to raise awareness for important issues that affect people’s daily lives. Make your learning relevant.

Class can be fun and interesting. It doesn’t have to be dry. Remember cool facts from Bio Bites? Coffee chats? Making marshmallow babies? Dissecting the fetal pig? Team time challenges? I’m proud to say I’ve never once seen anyone asleep in this class! Even first period!

You should be the hardest working ones in the room. If it’s your teacher, something’s wrong there. What I loved about our class is that it was always busy and buzzing. There was always learning going on.

You can accomplish more if you work together than on your own. Collaboration is crucial. I’ve never been more proud than when I saw you all working together on the clinic. You were put in groups that didn’t necessarily contain your friends and the discussion and cooperation that ensued was fantastic. If we had had more time, I have no doubt we could have achieved greatness.

Follow your own passions and interests. If you have questions about something (which you do judging from our QFT activities!), go forth and seek out the answers. You have the skills and the tools now.

Take risks. Don’t just pick the option that seems the easiest. Challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone. Don’t be scared to try something new. Keep an open mind.

Work hard. Don’t be lazy. Stop making excuses for yourself and to your teachers. Hold yourself to a high standard and maintain a strong work ethic. It will take you far.

Thank you for allowing me to try new things with you. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t, but you were all open minded enough to let me learn alongside with you. You were the best guinea pigs I could have asked for! Thank you for your positive feedback and constructive criticism. I’ve had a really great time working with all of you and I wish you all the best on your exams and in the future. I’ll miss you.


Ms. Agostino

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2 thoughts on “My Final Words of Wisdom

  1. Dear Ms Agostino,
    Thank you for posting this message to your students. I am sure they are heartbroken to have you leave. Your passion and joy for your profession is evident. Authentic learning, as you note, is not just of the material at hand but of life skills and personal understanding. Your biology classes sound terrific and interesting. They seem like the kind of classes students reflect on years later and understand that the genuine understanding of biology they acquired was also accompanied by a genuine understanding of themselves and the world.

    The school you are going to is lucky to have someone with such skills and sense of vocation arriving.

    Conor Jones
    Head of School
    The York School

  2. Helen Gin

    Dear Juliana,

    I have had a peek into your blog and am impressed by the honesty and warmth of your message. Your students are lucky to have had you in their learning journey. We are lucky to have you join us. I look forward to working with you.

    Helen Gin
    Middle School Principal
    The York School

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