This supportive team is the story of my 2020. There is so much to this team that works; there is so much to our shared experience that is fixed, now — fixed and firm in spite of 2020. Like the old peppercorn tree in the middle of our grounds, our team remained. Like the tree we were absurd, proud, novel, gnarled, weird and fixed; old from the moment we began. When the wind shook in our leaves, our trunk never noticed, and we remained.
My experiences are as varied as our cohort. They are as different as the presentations of each student and each student’s unfolding narrative. Every child is unique, we know. Every story is new. And every difference, subtle or not, has created a limitless site for my learning about them and their histories.
Outside of work, in the unfolding of global pandemic, I strained — sometimes desperately, sometimes with proud stoicism — to connect with friends and family over text and video. This was my own version of Corona angst, that individually-felt thing that lived in all our brains and was never fully, collectively expressed. Other than those hushed worries and half-interpreted headlines, and the hurried glances and rolled eyes and new habits of hygiene — other than all of these new tics we developed, we never fully acknowledged the bizarre loss that was unfolding, seemingly endlessly, around us. The world stalled and on my own, I stalled with it.
But then I would come to work. And I would laugh and cry at work and see the world move meaning through the branches, and see myself moving through work and around work, and work moving through me; and that was where I added meaning. As the winds and branches of this big silly tree shook with the year.
I demand compassion from myself, for myself and for others.
I have learned curiosity for our cohort as an antidote to judgement. I will always cultivate calmness, so that the above can thrive.
I will continue to learn this one big thing: so much of how young people present, how we all present, is marred by stigma and judgement. These two things, stigma and judgement, live perniciously, unfairly, inside our language, and in my language. None of us are immune from the viruses of contempt and prejudice that live in our words. What I have learned is that there is much to unlearn.
I have learned that self-doubt is only as important as reflection is productive, and second-guessing is fine but it's not the way out. Hesitation won't fix your ethics and it won't help your attitude. It will help both things, though, if you sit with your own, honest feelings and learn to know yourself through them.
All of my learning is iterative, cumulative. All of it comes in short flashes, never blinding insights but always just things that happened. Things that happened, collecting inside Me. I have built myself and been built by this job in such a way as to become gnarled and weird and buffeted by winds, but still fixed in the ground, proudly and absurdly, at Mackillop Caulfield, like the old peppercorn tree.
Reflection by Chris Anderson, Education Support Staff at MacKillop Education Caufield