March 29, 2023

The Two Sides of Term 4 (Author: Meg Melville)

Schools returned last week for that incredibly busy and final term of the year, Term 4. A great deal of time, energy and emotion is spent with the promise of that summer holiday break not too far away.

I was always bemused when non-school people would ask, “I suppose you are winding down now?”, as we launched headlong into Term 4. Quite the opposite!

The Roman god Janus

The reality of Term 4 is that your head spins constantly in two directions-back and forward. This always reminded me for some reason of the Roman god Janus, the one with two faces: one face looking back and one face looking forward. A god of beginnings and endings, duality and transitions, gateways and thresholds. This image has stayed with me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the wisdom of the ancient Romans could not be more relevant to the fast pace of schools in those first few weeks. Not only is Term 4 a time for celebration with the graduation of Year 6 and Year 12 students as they are farewelled by their school communities but also orientation as new students are welcomed to their new communities. Farewells and welcomes, endings and beginnings and so the lifecycle of the school continues.

Teachers and Administration are deeply engaged in bringing their programs for the year to a conclusion with much reflection and review about what worked well and what needs to be tweaked. At the same time, timetables, staffing, recruitment, budgets, learning and teaching programs, room allocations are all being put in place for the new school year. With one face on the year that was and the other on forward planning into the new year, things are anything but winding down!

Reflective thinking and questioning have become such a vital part of our personal and professional journeys, if growth and progress are to be made. Two faces, two sides to every story. There is always potential for conflict in our lives, be that personal or professional. Rather than instantly reacting, taking the time to reflect and review before responding may yield a more positive outcome for all. Reason vs reaction.

Janus also reminds us of the duality of life. Two faces, one head. Two sides of the same coin. Our lived experiences will take us on the roller coaster ride of emotions and outcomes. Not good or bad, just different:

  • happy and sad
  • success and failure
  • easygoing and angry
  • resilient and fragile
  • calm and anxious
  • affirmed and ignored
  • careful and careless
  • grateful and entitled
  • valued and overlooked

It is hard to know how one feels without having experienced the other. The key word here is experienced. Most lessons of lasting value can’t be taught in a theoretical way, they have to be experienced through what this looks, feels, and sounds like. Similarly, an education that exposes students through opportunity, to experience this rollercoaster ride in a safe environment, will be one that prepares them for life beyond school. Just as love can be kind and tough.

The practice of writing a letter to one’s younger self, or daughter/son will be a wonderful keepsake for them, but the advice will be just that, advice. The younger self will take note but won’t understand until they too, have experienced people and relationships in their own way. Being protective of the younger ones we care for is a natural instinct but not to such an extreme that it is at the expense of their growth and development into young adults with strong coping mechanisms to live in the real world, in real time.

So, as Term 4 gets underway, our schools will be incredibly busy places! Reviewing, assessing, reporting, refining, celebrating, farewelling and forward planning. Just as with Janus, staff and students alike will look back on their experiences on this past year, hopefully with a sense of accomplishment whilst at the same time turning towards the summer break and new year with a sense of purpose and optimism.