The start of a new academic year is a mixture of excitement, nervousness and anticipation. The butterflies will be churning in a number of people including parents, teachers and of course pupils. We all know that traffic volume will double over night and that the sign ‘Back to School‘ which according to my local shop begins in June now leads to a countdown to Christmas. Within the term calendar being prepared by many Headteachers, we will have the usual parent’s evening planned, Harvest Festival and then November. November is the month when pupils lack sleep, get a little grumpy and then become excited for December. Why? November begins with the hangover from Halloween, it leads into Bonfire night and towards the end we celebrate ‘Children in Need‘ with Pudsey. At this point the accelerator is kicked into gear for the Christmas service or show.
The above cartoon obviously simplifies the dynamics of a return to School however I do believe that we need to consider the main groups and how they might be feeling.
Parents – Ecstasy or Anxiety?
Many parents they will be grateful when the gates reopen however many new School parents will have mixed feelings. To misquote Neil Armstrong, one small step for a nursery child one giant step for parents.
Parents realise that School can mean many different things but ultimately it implies that their child is growing up. Despite the anxieties felt by parents on the first day, it is important that they realise how important they are. It is from them that pupils gain confidence to walk into the classroom with a smile. It is from this position that pupils begin to define their personalities.
If we enter the classroom without a smile then the cartoon above can easily become reality. All parents have an element of anxiety and the emotions do not really change as your child moves through the various stages of education. All parents are safety nets, the comfort zone and as such we often have to provide confidence and security despite our own feelings.
Ultimately I believe that a successful school involves parents in the life of the school and understands their needs.
Pupils – Hooray or Bw hw?
Pupils respond differently. Some will be like an uncorked bottle of Champagne whilst others will be a flat bottle of pop. Of course we have many different feelings between the two. They are happy to see many of their friends again, catch up on the gossip, play on the yard, have fun and relax in the environment of the School. Others will be nervous about their peers, teachers, work and whether they can be happy at School.
A smile can ease many worries and if a pupil begins to feel relaxed and happy at School, I believe that they will learn more. The key is to give them the confidence from day one.
Teachers -New and Experienced
In Wales teachers enter a profession that is constantly changing from one term to the next. Change can be good but it can also unsettle the well being of the staff. New initiatives on pay related performance will require handling carefully by school leaders. The key to the new term is to provide a positive vision, to believe that every lesson has the potential to change develop and improve the life of a child. Every member of staff should be clear about the expectations set by the School and every member of staff should be valued for their contributions.
Teachers need respect for all their hard work as well as support when it is required. Teachers are not child minders! They are crucial to the lives of all the pupils in our care.
The film/book above has many aspects that relate to growing up. It will make you laugh, cry, distressed but also hopefully realise that a teacher can make all the difference in the life of a child. It is set in a different age yet despite that a key factor in the life of the main character is that a teacher has faith in his ability and encourages him to filter books as a means of learning about life. Teachers can and do make a difference.
On a lighter note, the film,
Can inspire you to realise that teachers and pupils work more effectively as a team. SPOILER: At the end it simply acknowledges how teachers are often enthused by the creativity and knowledge that they have,
‘Children you have inspired me!’
School leaders – Aaahhhh or calm?
We often have the difficult task of holding together the emotions relating to everyone within school life.
This cartoon is often used for Headteachers and many of us will have a sleepless night on Sunday, many of us will hope the boilers still work, the building site of the summer is a school again, the new equipment has arrived and that the staff are full of energy and ready for the new term. As I have discussed before, being a school leader is very much a matter of juggling many different aspects of school life and learning how to prioritise whilst multitasking and not losing site of the main purpose of our jobs, to create an enriched and inspiring teaching and learning environment. A smile from a Headteacher can make a difference to pupils, parents and staff. What I always find difficult is the home and work life balance however what all leaders must remember is that without them the school would not have the vision or direction and for that reason it is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day and that the roller coaster ride that is an academic year will include many ups and downs, twists and turns yet during the journey do not forget the ups because they are the impetuses to keep you going through the difficult times that are ahead. It can be a very lonely position but it can also be the most rewarding job in the World.
Good luck to eveyone. Pob lwc i bawb and remember a smile a day can help you work, rest and play to misquote an advert from my youth.