As the start of school approaches, there will be nerves building in many ways; brand new children starting their very first day of school, children moving into new classes or new schools, teachers starting new schools, teachers greeting new students. I always get excited about the start of a new school year, partly because I am a total geek and love school, partly because you never know what it might hold.
As a teacher, I wonder whether this year will be kinder to some children, whether some children will feel happier with their lives, whether Joe Bloggs will have finally cut that stupid lego man hair over the summer holidays! Will I have any absolute tearaways in my classes? Will I manage to keep on top of everything…I don’t mean just the planning and marking but on top of any problems that arise or niggles that I feel with students?
I recently read a lovely poem online about the fear of a parent when their child starts school (Motherhood for slackers) and it hit a nerve in 2 ways.
1 – The Mama bit of me completely understands the fear of my child being supported and cared for like I have cared for them. Fortunately, I know that at the nursery Sprog attends all of those things are done brilliantly and I know that both Nanny’s give him all the love he needs when he’s with them. But he’s only 1. When will I start worrying about when it’s his turn to start school? He will after all be a very young one in the year group with an August birthday. I don’t think that physically it will notice as he is a beasty boy in the height and weight departments. Will he be noticeably below other students in terms of other developmental milestones, particularly as a boy?! I’m generalising but as a teacher, I know that boys can be lazier and slower to hit the markers that they ‘should’ do. Regardless of whether we agree with the markers or milestones, our children will be judged against them and the language used towards them will reflect this. We try to protect them from the big wide world and to let them enjoy their childhood but I think the reality of our system is that they will be judged and treated as performing monkeys from the day they set foot inside a classroom. Will Sprog be ready for this and mentally tough enough to handle it?
2 – But the teacher side of me wants to reassure the parents that we do care. We do want to protect your little darlings as much as possible. We want to aid them in their development but we will challenge them to expect nothing but the best and we will not accept less than that. But we can’t always achieve these things in the same soft and gentle mothering way that we do as parents. In primary school’s they have the gift and wondrous work of Teaching Assistant’s. I know that they are amazing, and many of my teaching friends swear by them but unfortunately your precious small people may not get that same caring TA support in secondary school’s. It is part of the growing up process to be able to move on without that support, it does mean that life at school can be much more difficult for some students.
For my form group I am the one-stop shop for their needs. And for me this year throws up a whole new challenge with them as they move into Year 11. They see themselves as the big boys and girls, and my form are, in many ways, a whole world away from the little people who I first met 3 years ago but in some ways they are not. They still want to be loved, protected, guided and whether they like it or not, it’s my job to do that at school. I do feel like their mother… proud, worried, protective, emotional about them leaving for the big wide world. Not every form tutor feels like this, particularly in secondary schools, but we do all want to ensure that every child reaches their potential, not just academically, but as well rounded human beings. It’s their last year of total protection, last year of “well, they are still a child and learning”, last year of us being in their corner and that’s a scary thought. (So is the prospect of the vast majority being taller than me when we go back!) The problem with teenager’s, and I’m sure that parents of teens will agree, is that they don’t realise this…they think they’ve got it all sussed out and that they are ready. God bless them… I really hope that by June when they leave me, they are ready.
As children and teachers start the new school year, parents – rest assured, we will do everything we can to help them – it’s our job. But moreover, it’s our job because we care and we want to help them to fulfil every possible potential they have. We chose this job, we may not get it right all the time (we are human, just like you are as parents), but we do want to care for a nurture them. From that first tentative step in the classroom with the freakishly small chairs and the reading corner with comfy cushions, to the exam and stress ridden days of GCSE’s and A level’s, we want them to be brilliant.
They just won’t always thank us for it, just like they don’t always see why we make some of our decisions as parents. I can only hope to have reassured any nervous parents. If I haven’t, my apologies and my key bit of advice is that actually, you can never ask too many questions of your child’s teachers as long as you are polite and courteous rather than rude and demanding, you will get a reply and response which is appropriate to nurture and challenge your little superstar all the way to greatness.