And so the work begins - teachers reflect on the first week of term
23 Aug 2023
Last week, teachers around the country welcomed pupils back to school for a new academic year. Sharing their experiences from the first week of term are Tamsin, a depute head teacher of a secondary school in East Kilbride and Rosie, a primary school teacher in Edinburgh
The school holidays are of course a welcome and much anticipated break from the constant decision-making and intense human interaction which come with being a leader in education, however, there is still that part of me which, at the end of six weeks, yearns for the familiar routine the school week provides, and the satisfaction of truly earning that ‘Friday feeling’.
Day 1 of the new term arrives after a sleepless night and step one of the gradual exposure back into school life begins. The annual rituals of INSET days play out: repeated conversations with colleagues about our holidays and the lack of sunshine, whole school meetings with the ubiquitous reminders of child protection and health & safety procedures, and our headteacher sharing the highlights of our pupils’ attainment in the SQA exams – the results were good!
As the head of the ASN Base in the school, I also focus on the achievements of our learners with additional support needs, and this past year, to a pupil, they have surpassed all of our expectations.
During a Base team meeting we celebrate the successes of our pupils, but also our part in it, which is providing the right social, emotional and academic environment for our neurodiverse pupils to thrive. It’s good to be back: with a staff team who ‘get it’, who know and show that building relationships and balancing support and nurture with high expectations and endless encouragement, are the most important factors in ensuring the success of our pupils. On those first days back, the sense of satisfaction in being part of such a team provides the strength and motivation to move into the next step of the return… that of the pupils.
I take great delight in seeing our new first years with their pristine uniforms, box fresh shoes, and new haircuts all ready for the year ahead. But we know their neurodiverse minds are dealing with high levels of cortisol, intense feelings of anxiety and some will be experiencing a sensory overload which their usual coping mechanisms may not be strong enough to overcome. And so the work begins...
I look around and see that we have all shifted back into our natural ways of empathic interaction and human connection, which reduce stress levels and produce just enough resilience to help the S1s through this momentous first day of secondary school.
Tamsin is a depute head teacher and head of the school’s ASN Base
I’m entering my tenth year in teaching and after six weeks of holiday, I was ready to get back to the classroom. This year, I will be teaching primary one, and I’m feeling really excited to welcome many tiny faces to the world of education.
The week began with planning meetings, staff training and classroom set up, then Wednesday brought the first bell of the new academic year for the children. Forty-five wee bairns lined up in the playground with their shiny, flashing school shoes, perfectly groomed hair and apprehensive, emotional family members. After hugs and waving goodbye, we got to work placing school bags on each child’s personalised peg.
First came register, name games and a classroom tour before our learners were invited to explore and play. We have a free-flow setting across three rooms, allowing a smooth transition from nursery and many opportunities for fun and learning. Getting to know each child in the first week is super rewarding.
Some of my favourite moments from the first week include:
· Being invited to play in the doll’s house. This is when you know you’ve made it as a teacher!
· The joy on their faces when they learn something new. This week was for the big milestones like putting on an apron by themselves for play in the water tray.
· The schoolbags going on at morning break and lunch in hopes that it’s already home time. The concept of time is very tricky when you’re only born in 2018 or 2019 of course!
· When a child was listening intently and waving their hand in the air and I asked if they had a question, only to get the response, “I was just practising putting my quiet hand up!”
· Eating lunch, going from “Miss A, I don’t like raisins, they are yuck…” to “I love them now!” in approximately four seconds because I said I would be really proud if they tried one.
· While reading a story to my class, I felt some little hands stroking my toes and nail polish. Little faces look up in awe and state, “I love pink.”
All in all, a successful first week in Primary 1 for all and many cheerful faces danced out of the door on Friday afternoon.
Rosie is a primary school teacher welcoming a new class of Primary 1 pupils