29 October 2020

Term four is a unique time in a school’s calendar as it brings with it both endings and beginnings. Reflections on the past three terms (or, in the case of Year 12, on a memorable 13 years of schooling!) colour and give context to the ways in which we experience the wrapping up of the year. As summer approaches we also sense a welcomed ‘out-breathing’, a looking forward to languid days of warmth, children playing, teenagers sleeping and, if we are lucky, dreamy rest for ourselves.

But a pulse for what is coming is also very much present. Kindergarten children look forward to meeting their Class Teacher and entering Class 1, Class 6 students from both inside and outside the School anticipate the start of their Glenaeon High School journey, Year 10 feels drawn to the demands of the senior studies program and Year 11 students suddenly find themselves being called Year 12 after only a two-week Spring break!

Where it is understood that 2021 will follow 2020, and that 2022 is around the corner, where a gallop through childhood and adolescence leads to the moment when steps beyond school are taken, anyone could be excused for thinking about time as linear phenomenon. For students and parents (and I can speak from experience about both), the natural progression from one stage to the next is the aspect that stands out… a movement from ‘was’, to ‘now’, to ‘then’.

For those of us working in Kindergarten, the High School or in an administrative role, however, the progression through the year could be likened to a colour-wheel of experiences, where beginnings and endings seamlessly merge though shades of subtle hues that dovetail the past, present and future. 2020 graduations and end of year celebrations lie adjacent to 2021 welcome events, and next year’s calendar becomes as vivid in the minds of the School’s organisers as does the calendar of the year in which we are in. Year 12 of 2020 is celebrated at the end of their secondary school journey while at the same time Year 12 of 2021 step up to the fray (the senior teachers don’t miss a beat as the HSC syllabi are simply turned back to page one!). Eager faces of Year 7 students who will join the school next year experience a High School science lesson at their orientation day just moments after their current counterparts are taught the lesson in earnest. Even tinier children than the current Kindergarten cohort get to play in the flow-form and sandpit where ‘soon to be gone’ children have built mud pies just moments before. And from these perspectives, it can be perceived that time is circular.

For us teachers in the High School, shepherding young people on their journey and having the great pleasure of getting to know their families in the meantime, we are aware of the linear nature of an individual’s path, their growing and maturing, but we are also conscious of the stages of development through which whole year levels evolve…  the parts of the excitements, challenges, questions and answers which are the archetypal stages of young people’s progressions. And we are aware of the cyclical nature of our profession and understand that it is our task to open up, year after year, a journey of becoming that for an individual is an experience in time through which to move but which for us is a moment held in suspension, always ready to be revisited.

There is something beautiful in being able to see the year in this way and in Term 4 time as a cyclical reality is acutely experienced. For the period that is ‘Term 4’, we Kindergarten, High School teachers and school administrators come to feel we are suspended at the pivot point. We are at the moment where the beginnings and endings overlap and I am reminded of a beautiful poem by Judith Wright that starts with the words, “Oh where does the dancer dance, the invisible centre spin, whose bright periphery holds, the world we wander in?” And at this time in the year we could say that we know where that centre is, just for a moment before 2021 carries us away, and we are dancing there.