Back to School – advice for new students

This is my column for the Courier this week.

1. Be nice. You will be with people you know from Primary and with lots of people you don’t. If you stick to the ‘be nice’ part you’ll find that you’ll avoid the pitfalls of starting at a new school and make new friends. Pupil who think they are ‘cool’, tend to stick to other pupils they think are ‘cool’ in the same way as them. Thus they limit their friendship groups and count on their meanness to hold their group together. Their start in school will be made up of failing out, hurtful comments, sadness and loneliness. So be nice to people and you’ll get niceness back from them.

2. Work hard. You have this time to make a fantastic impression on your new teachers and there will be lots of new teachers! From one primary teacher, to probably over 12. Each of those will have slightly different rules, routines, seating plans, but will all have high expectations. Make sure you put your best efforts in to every piece of work. That mind-set you will make brilliant progress during your time at secondary school.
3. Be prepared to fail. Every day and in every lesson you will not know everything and you will get things wrong. There would be no point to a lesson if you already knew the answers, so don’t think raising your hand first makes you the cleverest person in the class. You just knew the answer before the question was asked. Getting things wrong and failing is the quickest way to learn. Learning how to deal with failure is one of the best life skills you can gain at school. Never say “I don’t know”, without ending the sentence with “yet”. Read and listen to the feedback from the teacher on how to improve your work. Make the changes to that piece of work based on that advice. Keep repeating, “if it is not excellent, it is not finished”.
4.  Be prepared to be silent in lessons.  You need to listen to the expert that you will have in every class, your teacher.  They will explain things that you need to listen to.  Also, you will need to listen to you classmates.  Everyone of you deserve the respect to have your opinion or answer or questions heard.  There will also need to be the time to work in silence, this gives everyone the chance to do their best.

4. Throw yourself in to school life. Join clubs; play sport and try out for the school’s teams; try acting; sing in the choir; join a band or the orchestra; play chess; go to science and maths clubs. Don’t listen to the ‘cool’ group about what you should and shouldn’t do. Those that throw themselves into school life will have the widest friendship groups, including those in different year groups.
5. See it as a fresh start. No matter what happened at primary, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself. You may have felt you were “no good at maths”, well now you can change your mindset to a person who is going to give it your best effort to improve. You may have chatted too much in class and got on the wrong side of your teacher. You might have been mean to your classmates. Take this opportunity to change, we don’t know what you were like only what you are like.
6. Enjoy school. It does seem, from your current perspective, that you are in school for a really long time. But if you live a long life, it makes up approximately 16% of your whole life. 84% will not be in a school.  Looking back you will never have so many friends. So many people looking out for you. People who are desperate for you to achieve your full potential. So enjoy it!
Actually reading this back, I think this is good advice for all students returning to school. 

I hope that you have a successful year.


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