Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards

When you are in the middle of winter with cold temperatures and rainy days, what else can you do but be inside and bunker down? In the Rijken household it means tidying up and redoing different areas of the house. My job was to go back to my home office and look at all the boxes of paperwork and folders I have kept for many years. I kept all the paperwork of invoices from power, gas, council rates, water, insurances, emergency service levies, car registrations, telephone and internet, subscriptions etc. Did you do the same? In this age of everything being electronic, there is no need to keep these records, in fact I have collected these for years and have never had to refer to them at all. All these papers were placed straight into a confidential bin and I will need to get used to knowing where this paperwork will now be stored electronically. It has created more space and the room is already looking much better and uncluttered. During my tidying up, I found boxes containing reports, photos and yearbooks, certificates and letters from the time when my children were at school. I thought hard about what to do and now they will be delivered directly to them so that they can make the decision.

At school, my office now has only the bare minimum of paper. As we try very hard to become paperless, work is managed on an in/out basis and documents are stored electronically. When you come to meetings at Cardijn you will see very few paper handouts and all staff will have their laptop and utilise technology. Our Toward 2025 goal is to see the school transform into the digital age exclusively.

For the last 36 years school reports have been provided to students at the end of each term/semester. In the 80s and 90s reports were written for each subject on sheets which were carbonated so that there would be a copy for the report and a carbon copy for the student file. Each teacher would complete this report by hand, they would be signed and proofed by the principal and then collated for stapling. It was a labour-intensive exercise. With the growth of technology, reporting software was introduced to generate reports on paper which were then proofed and manually signed for collation and stapling.

Through the introduction of our SEQTA learning management system, parents have access to their child’s learning on a 24/7 basis. SEQTA provides access to information about learning, student assessments and feedback from teachers, to curriculum and course information, future assessments and week to week sessions including learning intentions and outcomes. The amount of rich information that parents have at hand is far beyond what we have come to know even from five years ago.

Whilst our aim at the College is to become paperless, we also recognise that there is value in formal printed documents. Therefore, our customary printed reports will be distributed to parents/caregivers at the end of next week however reports will also be available to view on the SEQTA platform. Moving forward, the College will work in consultation with our families to maintain those items that are most valued.

Whilst the past systems of handwriting reports and collating them were time-consuming and demanding, the time and demand on teachers has not changed, instead shifted in line with our new expectations. Indeed, many would argue that the demands on teaching have steadily increased with time.

So the lessons learnt and the lessons that are still to be learnt will steer us in the direction of the “New Normal”. This pandemic has taught us to be agile, flexible and most of all measured in our responses to the twists and turns we encounter each day. As a community I hope that we can respond well to the changes, as change we must. There is no return to what we have come to know in the past, it will be different, and it is up to us to make sure that it is an experience we can be proud of.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, a Catholic secondary co-educational school (7-12) in the southern region of Adelaide with a total of 1120 students and 140 staff. Marcellin is a campus of Cardijn College. It provides students in Years 10 to 12 with SACE, training and apprenticeships. It has an enrolment of over 155 students and 30 staff. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

1 comment on “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards

  1. Viano Jaksa

    What a great title!!! Another reflection filled with wisdom. Thank you so much, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

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