It’s a cold, blue-sky morning in Windsor, in Sydney’s north-west, and 19-year-old Abby McLeod is in her favourite coffee house. In that mystifying way of the robustly young, she’s wearing just a thin, scoop-neck singlet under her parka as she sips a soy cappuccino.
Abby is in the last term of a forensic science degree at Western Sydney University. In February, she applied for a place on a graduate program with the federal police: she’s just found out that she’s been offered one of only two places, starting in February. “I’m so excited,” she says, grinning. “I want to work in forensics ultimately, but I wouldn’t have to choose straight away. You do a rotation for a year through the different departments.”
Before she went to university, Abby spent a week as an intern at Waratah Police Station near her family home in Maitland in NSW’s Hunter Valley. “I was shown the fingerprint department, did some target practice, visited the morgue – I didn’t see cadavers that time, but we do at uni – and volunteered in a homeless shelter. It was so cool.”
Abby, you notice, is manifesting that almost elemental surge of confidence that comes with being good at, well, life. But it wasn’t always this way. Six years ago, as a year 8 student at a local high school, she was struggling – badly. Despite wanting to learn, she couldn’t grasp the subjects – even the ones she used to like, like science – the way they were being taught. “I didn’t understand what the teachers were saying and gave up trying,” she says. “I didn’t ask questions because I’d stopped finding any of it interesting. I just lived for the weekends.
“In maths, I kept getting moved down streams as my marks went from bad to worse. The way the teachers viewed me – as someone who wasn’t at all academic – was the way I started to see myself and soon I was, like, ‘Yeah, they’re right: you’re really bad at this.’ “
More here – The Age Good Weekend
PS: I read this piece whilst having breakfast here in HK. It is an interesting juxtaposition to the way the education system seems to work in Asia where repetition and ruthless competition seem to be the order of the day.