Before term 4 actually hits, it’s easy to imagine it as the prelude to summer holidays. Certainly, there are end of year activities to plan, end of year functions and a general air that the end is in sight. However, once you are in the midst of it, that tiny memory of hell on earth starts to resurface.
Term 4 is a nightmare. It feels shorter and more intense than any other term – so much so that, in its finals days, the thought of Christmas ahead is just exhausting. Colleagues at private schools finish weeks before us and get their Christmas shopping sorted. No matter what I pledge and promise, I am always floundering around a shopping centre with only 24 hours separating me from the big day, swamped by overwhelming apathy. Term 4 does that to you.
“Term 4 is a busy but exciting term,” announces Greg, the resolutely jovial principal at a staff briefing. Possibly the only exciting thing about the term is that the warmer weather allows you to crank out the summer wardrobe and open-toed shoes… except that we have an anti-open toed policy at our school, so there is actually nothing exciting about term four. Due dates start to pile together and there is the all too familiar jostling and gnashing of teeth to fill positions of responsibility for the following year.
Secondary schools see the gradual disappearance of senior students and the attendance of most of the year 9 population becomes erratic.
“It is essential that we deliver meaningful and relevant curriculum right up until the last day,” shouts Greg, looking flustered and put out when questioned about whether end of year activities (AKA glorified babysitting) should start earlier.
Even with the introduction of programs that start the next year’s curriculum in the dying weeks of term 4, students have cottoned on that their teachers are struggling. This is particularly apparent when such programs demand teachers develop new units of work and start developing relationships with new groups of students whilst still dealing with exam marking, projects hanging over from earlier in the term, and writing reports (didn’t we just do this?).
Whilst it’s fantastic that we were able to reach an agreement with the government and stop industrial action, I’m sure I’m not alone in having fond flashbacks to our ‘no report writing’ stance. Ah, those were the days.
It’s during times of crazy workloads like these that I often think of the sporting adage, 'go hard or go home'. I wonder whether a principal behind a megaphone shouting this out would motivate or aggravate at this time of year. There is the possibility that teachers would take the offer literally and call in sick in unprecedented numbers, as there’s nothing worse than failing to have your hard work acknowledged and appreciated.
We are going hard even though we feel like going home. Okay?