On Friday during periods five and six, the Year 12 Literature students completed four weeks of critical analysis and discussion of Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood’s 1996 historical fiction novel spanning nearly 500 pages. While this may sound like a normal day in the life of a VCE student, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous dedication and commitment these students have shown so far this year. 


I don’t know how many times I hear (and have heard for years) about how ‘kids don’t read anymore,’ or that they ‘just scroll through life on their phones.’ Countless media narratives portray them as digital zombies with ‘Tik Tok brains’ who can’t pay attention for more than 15 seconds at a time. And while there are vestiges of truth to these stereotypes, we hear so little about what capable, conscientious, critical thinkers they are. Step into our classroom on a Friday afternoon and you will hear them laugh, argue, speak out, take risks, be vulnerable, and compliment one another while engaging in respectful discourse about not only the novel we are studying, but some of the world’s most significant concerns. 


With the weekend just hours away, it would be easy for a student to sit there daydreaming about the night ahead, gazing out the window aimlessly. But that is not the reality. Without a phone in sight, you will see their heads excitedly searching through pages, analysing symbols, discussing historical perspectives, and engaging with the text – sometimes spending half an hour on a few key phrases. No attention span? Tik Tok Brain? Please. These students provide hope of improving the world the ‘adults’ in society have created for them.


Shane Papatolicas

Year 12 Literature and English teacher