From the Deputy Head of Middle School

It’s time for some riddles.

‘As a group of school children board a bus, the bus driver counts 44 heads but the teacher counts 40 heads. They are both correct. How can that be?

The answer? The bus driver counted forty foreheads, not forty-four heads.’

Here is another riddle. During week one of Term 2, Billy lost his tie, forgot to submit his Cells assignment, missed band rehearsal, and left his Myki at home. How could Billy announce on Friday afternoon that it had been a ‘great week’?

The answer? Billy is a teenager!

Sound familiar? When I took a moment and thought about what Billy had spoken about during the week, rather than of just focussing on his organisation that had so irritated me, I could see where he was coming from. He was thinking about the awesome sound that the chicken wing had made when he snapped its tendon during the Science prac, he was reflecting on his B+ for the CARE Art Imagery assignment that he was clearly much more interested in than he had let on, he was still gloating about the terrific comments made during the History Parent Teacher Student Interviews, and he was reliving the moment when the egg yolk splattered all over someone’s shoes during the House egg and spoon race (please let me know if I need to reimburse you for a new pair of shoes!)

Sound familiar? A total lack of organisation was not worrying Billy. There were more important matters running through the brain of this teenager. In ‘Brainstorm; The Power and Purpose Of The Teenage Brain’, Daniel Siegel discusses the changes that occur in the brain that make the adolescent period different from childhood. He explains how these changes result in teenagers seeking rewards in trying new things, creating new ways of doing and seeing things, feeling more intense emotions, and connecting with their peers in different ways. It stunned me that they all were in the way that Billy had spoken about throughout his ‘great’ week at Carey. There was novelty seeking (the chicken’s tendon), creative exploration (the imagery task), emotional intensity (the History interview), and social engagement (the egg and spoon race).

Now, I don’t think a deep analysis of each week at Carey is needed but it does reinforce the importance of the three pillars that form the foundation of all things done at Carey – i.e. curricular, co-curricular, and pastoral care. We aim to develop a wise, independent, motivated learner but need to recognise that this will evolve differently in each child. The important thing is that we work with our teenagers to ensure that risk taking is responsible, that creativity actually creates, that emotional awareness comes with social responsibility, and that relationships are respectful and positive.

During Term 2, there are an enormous range of age- and stage-appropriate activities for our Middle School students. Geography excursions, House Cross-Country, oral presentations, the musical Bye Bye Birdie, a large number of assessment tasks and tests, the Winter Sport season, research tasks, CIVICS week, cultural visits, and the Anzac Day Assembly, just to name a few! I encourage you to be in the moment for your teenager. Listen and communicate, be inspired by what they take from these events, and focus on your child’s positive learning, even if it’s not quite the learning that you are after, because Siegel goes on to suggest that there is a power in the adolescent mind that we must embrace. It has ‘just that spark of emotion and social drive, just that push to explore new solutions to old ways of doing things, that may save life on our planet’ … just as long as the world doesn’t need organising!

And finally, another riddle. Rearrange the letters of BURN ME THERE to spell out three numbers.

The answer? Sorry, you will need to ask your teenager!

Meredith Plaisted
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Learning