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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Growing Pains


If I bit my nails, they’d be down to my knuckles. Today is the day before GCSE results are released and I’m under the illusion I’m more nervous than my pupils or their parents. Tomorrow, for every secondary teacher, for every GCSE pupil and their parents, is “The Day of Reckoning”. The newspapers will be full of reports on how exams are getting easier or how teachers are getting worse or a million and one reasons why we should bring back national service or the death penalty for the future scroungers of society who didn’t get their 5 A*-Cs.

I tried to avoid feeling this way because these results, essentially, have no real impact on me or my pupils. Irrespective of the results, the world will keep ticking on, the dust will settle and my little lambs will find their way in this big, big world of never-ending choices. As the head of year 11, this year has been a year of constantly reminding myself of that fact. But, because they have been such a huge part of my life these past five years, I so badly want them to knock the stuffing out of previous results.

Today I find myself in an enormously reflective mood, sheer proof that a teacher is never really on “holiday”.

I hated every second of being a “teenager”. I remember what it was like to not have money in my pocket with no prospect of earning more, I remember how it felt to be reliant on my parents when I just knew I knew better than them and I remember being alienated by strangers, relatives and teachers—and peers—as if I had suddenly grew horns, a pointed tail and started carrying a pitchfork when I hit 13.

For some reason I thought being able to remember all this would make me a better teacher. And to a certain extent it has but what I really think made me a better teacher was becoming a better astrologer.

Astrology can help us understand ourselves AND teenagers, even if we don’t know their birth details. And let’s face it, a lot of astrological information can be completely irrelevant when you are dealing with a screaming, swearing, threatening and intimidating teenager (or their parents) or if, on the flip side, you are mopping up a river of tears because someone has said something to hurt them or the exam pressure has gotten to be too much or if their mobile phone got stolen/broken/confiscated (a touchy subject for our high tech generation) or if the object of their affection has ignored them that day.

During adolescence, two main astrological significators are present for everyone: the first Jupiter return and the first Saturn opposition. There are, of course, other astrological markers for adolescence but many of these vary from person to person. The first Jupiter return and first Saturn opposition provides valuable insight into the rate of growth and development for each year group of people as they pass through adolescence and, handy for people who work with adolescents, require no exact time of birth. On a personal level, I became fascinated with this cycle as a teacher in a secondary school. Did I have to be a passive bystander to the angst that I once went through myself? Or could I use astrology, not to provide all the answers for them (that’s Saturn’s job) but to gain an insight into when they were likely to begin adolescence at the Jupiter cycle and when Saturn was the peak of doing his worst during the first opposition.

As astrologers, we are aware of the symbolism of Jupiter: growth, abundance, confidence, opportunity, higher education, religious beliefs and enthusiasm. At Jupiter’s first return, at (roughly) eleven and half years, our adolescents typically experience a change of school: they go from an elementary or primary school into a bigger school. They meet more children from different schools, they take on more lessons with different teachers and consequently and “coincidentally” expand their horizons—exactly what astrologer might expect in any Jupiter return. As a teacher of this age group, I noticed a huge shift in behaviour: the pupils of this age grew rapidly from energetic children into rowdy, boisterous, emotionally immature but nearly life sized adults. They became much more difficult to control as many of my colleagues will attest. But I know they are Jupiter in Scorpio or Sagittarius (born between September 1994 and August 1995) pupils held in check by Pluto—and I unashamedly used this information to help them (and myself) get a handle their seemingly unrestrained growth spurt. Indeed, there were times I did too good a job in scaring the snot out of them with potential dangers. Several of my pupils swore to me they’d die virgins. . .not that I believe them (but I still like to think they’d be more careful).

A few years after the first Jupiter return, the first Saturn opposition takes place. This happens at roughly the same time we (as teacher, parents and educators) expect our children to “get serious” about their studies and commit to GCSE subjects. They choose their subjects rather than have a variety imposed on them as they did during their Jupiter returns. We expect them to be more responsible and take on “work experience” at the end of year 10. We constantly remind them of impending examinations and we threaten them with the ominous words: “One day, you’ll regret not studying more.” All of my pupils, like me, are Saturn in Pisces people and it helped me to know that on our journey together a quiet, meditative environment would give us time to think about our next move. I tried to achieve this through assemblies, our compulsive “collective worship”, a different approach to the other heads of year.

By being aware of the cycles of Saturn and Jupiter, we astrologers are provided with an easy advantage over non-astrologer teachers.

But I guess, as they say, tomorrow the proof will be in the pudding.

PS: I am hoping to present my findings at the United Astrology Conference next year.

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