Time for a holiday….almost.. AND Subject Planning Process for 2020

By Amanda Bertschinger,

  Filed under: Senior School

As the end of term looms, the wonderful promise of holidays beckons. July holidays always seem to be the most important holidays for school students and we are incredibly lucky to have three weeks. They are, in my mind, the most important holidays, because they arrive when students (and teachers) need them the most.

Students in Years 10 and 11 should be having a holiday. All Stage 1 subjects are semesterised, which means there should be no homework to complete. Having a complete break from their work allows them to recharge and regain their buoyancy, focus and energy.

Students in Year 12 also need to have a holiday. The first few days of their holiday will be spent completing exams. They then need to take a break, as this really is their last opportunity before the year finishes. However, there are a number of things all students can do to ensure they make the most of their holiday and are able to approach Term 3 with renewed energy.

Holiday priorities:

  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern that fits with school. It is incredibly hard for adolescents to adapt to waking up early, as most are programmed for long sleep-ins. Students need to avoid late nights and long sleep-ins so they can transition back to school with no issue.
  • Clean out their rooms. All students should have a thorough clean out of their bedrooms during the holidays. Rejuvenating their living space will enable them to manage their day more effectively.
  • Do some community service. Spending time doing something for others reminds students of the needs of the wider world, enabling them to reduce their egocentric mindset.
  • Exercise and eat healthily. This of course seems obvious but a renewed focus on healthy living will help them fight off any lingering viruses.
  • Socialise with others. Helping students to catch up with friends, including those from outside of school, ensures that they engage with the world beyond social media and of course have a chance to recharge.
  • Get outside. Students need to spend time outside, preferably every day in winter.
  • Do a little study – Stage 2 students only. While students need to take a break, it is important that they also do some study. Term 3 tends to be filled with large assignments, often worth 30% of a student’s grade. Most students will need to make a start on these tasks. A few days spent reviewing Semester 1 will also be helpful and allow students to approach the final semester with renewed energy.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect.

Term 3 will be a time for subject selection for our current Year 10s and 11s and University/TAFE enrolment for Year 12s. To best prepare for this, please read the following article on Subject Planning for 2020 about the process that will occur.

Leonie Harwood

Deputy Principal and Head of Senior School


Subject Planning for 2020

I know that heading might seem a little premature but it is already time for families to be thinking about the subjects to be studied in 2020. Subjects are selected in the first few weeks of next term! We have developed a number of opportunities for parents and students to develop their knowledge to be able to confidently make informed decisions. This article will outline the process and give some key dates for next term.

Subject Handbook and Reports – End of Term 2

At the end of next week, families will be sent their Report and the Subject Handbook for 2020. The report will include a section that gives subject recommendations. Teachers will indicate if they are able, at this stage, to recommend that the student continues to study the subject in 2020. Some subjects, such as Maths, will list which Maths subjects are recommended.

The Subject Handbook is a comprehensive outline of the subjects offered in 2020. I encourage all families to review the Handbook, in conjunction with the recommendations in the report, to begin the process of planning subjects.

Subject and Careers Expo – Wednesday 31 July at 6pm

In Week 2, we will again hold our Subject and Careers Expo. This is an opportunity for all students and parents to attend an interactive information evening. Our subject leaders will run an information booth, allowing parents to learn more about specific subjects. We will also have representatives from Universities and TAFE. This range of presenters will allow families to interrogate their potential career pathways and consider subjects for 2020.

Subjects selected – Friday 9 August

Parents are sent a link, which allows them to select subjects online. Subjects are to be selected by Friday 9 August.

Subject Selection Interviews

All Year 10 and 11 students in conjunction with their parent/guardian, will have a personal meeting with one of our Subject Counsellors. Our subject counsellors include Heads of House, Heads of Department, as well as other key staff. In this meeting, the subjects selected will be reviewed and discussed, with an opportunity to make changes if required.

Monday 12 August – Year 11 2020 Counselling (Current Year 10s)

Tuesday 13 August – Year 12 2020 Counselling (Current Year 11s)

While it may seem daunting to be choosing subjects for 2020 already, this process allows for parents and students to develop their knowledge and understanding to enable informed decision making. I look forward to meeting with you next term.


Voice of the Students

Please read the following inspirational words from our two School Captains, Ben Ransom and Katie Aitken, which were delivered at recent assemblies:


So…here we are…my final address!

A truly memorable moment in any Captain’s tenure…and as you can see, I made sure to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Now, the Captain’s address is designed to stimulate and inspire students to pursue a course of action, which should benefit themselves and the community, so as you can imagine, there is a lot of pressure on the Captain to deliver a speech that you won’t forget.

Today, I’d like to talk to you about embracing your identity and being ‘comfortable with yourself’. But before I do that, I’d like to share a memory involving a School Captain’s speech, which I myself have never forgotten. It was from a 2014 Captain, when I was in year 7….and this speech has stuck with me ever since.

I don’t remember it because of its powerful message……or its riveting deliverance……or even the witty puns strewn throughout it.

No……….I remember it, because the Captain described a story in which he mentioned the word “willy” twice. As a year 7 student, I thought “I can’t believe he just said willy…this is awesome!” I was scared of saying willy in front of my parents let alone the whole school. This is what caused me to remember the speech after all these years and hopefully now, you will also remember MY speech, as I have successfully mentioned the word “willy” on three occasions.

So anyway…back to my onesie. It’s safe to say that I never imagined my final address would be in a onesie……but then again as Forrest Gump always says, “Life’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

My first few years of schooling were just like this ‘box of chocolates’. A rollercoaster of experiences – good and bad. It is often hard to understand this, as people see leaders as being successful in everything and believe that they have always had an easy and successful school journey. But this often couldn’t be further from the truth.

The hardest part of my journey was the beginning, where ‘fitting in’ seemed so important. Trying to fit in with your friends is often the hardest, simply because we put immense pressure on ourselves to be so similar to them……in our thoughts, attitudes and behaviour. We throw away our own identity in exchange for someone else’s, because it makes us feel more comfortable and accepted.

When I first started at pre-school, I wasn’t sure what my ‘identity’ actually was. My two best friends were girls – both of whom have left the school now. Some of the Year 12s may remember Grace Kelsey and Alexandra Taylor. At lunchtime, their favourite activity was to dress up as bridesmaids…..but of course to do this, they needed a bride…….and that’s where I came in! Now I just want to clear this up…..I am certainly not into cross dressing. But to keep Grace and Alexandra happy, I cooperated…..several times unfortunately!

Although I wasn’t fully aware of it back then, I was willing to do anything to blend in and have a ‘happy’ day, because I was scared of not being accepted for who I was.

I was often apprehensive of what the day had in store, so I developed certain routines to prepare myself.

I remember how my Mum used to drop me off at Pre-school, and I would stand at the side gate with my face pressed into the wire and say over and over again…”I love you Mum. I love you Mum”. This was my way of readying myself to take on the day…..all I needed was time and a little bit of confidence.

Fast forward to now and there are still days, especially in Year 12, when I still need assurance about what the future holds and feel that I need to stand at the Retreat House fence saying ‘I love you Mum’ again……..but then, Ms Harwood or Ms Grear might call 000 and you might not see me for while…..so maybe not.

Over my 15 years at St John’s, I’ve learnt that happiness and contentment don’t come about through fitting in……they come about through openly accepting yourself for who…you…are.

Once you’ve accepted yourself, you then need to LIVE BOLDLY. Share your talents with the world. Let everyone know exactly…who you are.

When I look ahead of me right now, I see many people who have done exactly that. St John’s is such a great school, because of the wide diversity of talent and passion. We have musicians, comedians, dancers, sports champs, leaders, inventers, artists and debaters.

What is great about each year level is that there are so many different passions, different hobbies and different dreams. Overall I’ve had a great schooling journey and have known some of the Year 12s since Reception. I started school with students including Hamish, Alex, Kaitlyn, Maddy, Mikaylah, Tom, Steph, Taylah, Sasha and Olivia. It has been a long journey, but we have all learnt to embrace our differences and have become comfortable with our own identities.

One of my favourite movies, due to its meaningful message, is The Breakfast Club. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. At the end of the film, five students, who have given up their Saturday for detention, write a letter to their Principal as follows:

Dear Mr Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal…
Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

Such a meaningful message…..and so hard to read without singing ‘don’t you forget about me’ in the back of my mind.

The great thing about The Breakfast Club, is that they have accepted the fact that they share some similar traits. But most importantly, they have learnt to embrace their own unique identities and accept each other for who they truly are.

While there is a little bit of sameness between us all…..we are all fundamentally different…..and that’s ok!

In life’s journey, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself. Be unique. Be different. Be whoever you want to be.

My message to all of you is: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life define yourself.”

Ben Ransom


Good morning everyone.

I am very excited to speak to everyone today. As Alex mentioned before, it feels like not long ago when I first came to St John’s in Year 8, sitting in the front row of the assembly, listening and seeing School Captains, role models for the school use their platform, deliver a speech, expose a small part of who they are to promote a message. I for one was excited for this opportunity to deliver a message to show a small part of who I am.

However, for as long as I have strived for the opportunity of School Captain, I have always thought about what my message would be and this provoked me to ask a deeper question: who am I?

From a young age I have always grappled with the idea of identity. As most people know throughout both primary school and high school, I have participated in a wide range of extra-curricular activities. However, as I completed such a wide variety of activities, I didn’t know where I truly belonged and whilst I knew I didn’t have to fit into one group of people that followed one particular interest, for a long time I didn’t realise that each of these extra-curricular activities and interests were allowing me to – sorry Mr McKenzie for this word – form passions. From pedal prix to chess to mock trial to tennis to jump rope to football, each thing I was passionate about and interested in, created a mosaic, with each part important to the identity I was and continue today to form.

Whilst a large part of high school is obviously to gain an education, I believe that going to school is not just about letters and numbers and learning academic skills, but to learn who you are as a person. And St John’s gives several opportunities for this to occur, through Rite Journey, extra-curricular and leadership opportunities.

When coming to St John’s and moving from a primary school to a high school, I had no idea what to expect, but I entered with an open mind to new experiences – almost like a ball of clay ready for each experience to mould me into who I was destined to become. Starting back at Year 8 and as I moved through the years, I saw role models in the school, past School Captains, duxes of the school, teachers and friends. The qualities these role models show; leadership, persistence, determination, kindness and resilience, also allowed me to understand who I wanted to become, what I could strive for, to be a leader, to be courageous, to be kind and to always take each opportunity that I came across. I soon understood, however, that the qualities that I wanted to model my behaviour on were specific to my personality, to my interests – my passions and I began to understand more about the person I was and the person I was to become.

And through my years at St John’s, this has occurred. I have definitely learnt things about myself and things that I am passionate about. For instance, two undoubtable truths and passions I have learnt about myself:

  1. That apple juice is undoubtedly better than orange juice; and
  2. Spaghetti bolognaise is shortened to spag bog not spag bol

Now whilst it may seem like those two pieces of information are unrelated to this topic, may not even relate to me as a person or myself in any way, or like I spent an awfully long time trying to think of a way to integrate those two important pieces of information into my speech, I believe another huge part of discovering your identity is identifying the values you believe in and standing by them. And this is not to say don’t hold an open mind to new opinions and experiences, but in order to be true to yourself, you must understand your values, what causes you to make decisions and to be honest with yourself.

So now I want to offer some advice to you students on how I believe you should lead the following years of your schooling life, to allow yourselves to not only grow and prosper as people, but to help learn who you are. I think the first major point is that the next years of your life are paving the pathway to your future, whatever this may entail. But at the same time, this time is going to move so very fast, so it’s important to appreciate each moment, savour the good ones and learn from the bad ones. Use each experience to learn something about yourself, what you like or dislike, how you feel about it.

But from all of these problems you may come across, I urge you to be kind to one another. You may not realise it now but as you move through school, particularly your senior years, it becomes more and more apparent that you and your year level are part of a team. Work together, hold each other up, you are all on similar journeys of self-discovery and when you might have had a rough day, the odds are someone else has had an equally bad day too, so be kind to one another and work together to finish these final stages of your schooling lives. This lies hand in hand with not discouraging others for their interests, supporting their pursuits and individuality.

Finally, take the different opportunities the school offers to you, even if you think it could be a horrible experience, keep an open mind to it. If in Year 2 I didn’t apply for my class’ SRC representative, I may not be standing here talking to you today. And even if you do try it and you discover it was a horrible experience, at least you are able to learn a small part about yourself – take a small step in your self-discovery journey.

But most of all at the end of the day, the person you become – it doesn’t matter if they are into public speaking, Irish dancing, cars, going to the gym, netball, basketball or a combination of a few – make sure they are kind – someone who will always put others first. Strive to be able to look at yourself in the mirror each day and think I was the best possible person I could be today. And obviously we cannot do this every day, it’s not in our nature to, but on those days instead look into the mirror and go, how could I improve to become the best person I can possibly be tomorrow – be someone that someone would look up to – show qualities that others can strive for to shape themselves.

To finish in true speech cliché, I want to end on a quote, an Ellen DeGeneres quote but it is a good summary of what I am saying: “Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on earth to be. Find that truth. Live that truth, and everything else will come.”

Katie Aitken