Monday, 2 September 2013

Getting Past the Jitters

A new school year begins Tuesday, and while many staff, students and parents eagerly look forward to opening day, there are others for whom the end of the summer may not be such a happy time. Whether heading back to familiar surroundings, starting out for the first time at a new school, or simply reacting to the change in season and circumstances,  its certain that the first day of school creates some anxiety.  How one deals with first day jitters helps set the tone for the rest of the year. Regardless of whether one is a parent, student or staff member,  successfully getting past that first day is very important.

For parents the reaction to back to school can depend on many factors. Parents new to the whole school process tend to be more anxious than veterans. Ad campaigns like Staples "They're Going Back" try to suggest that many parents experience a sense of relief and liberation in sending their children off to school. In reality many of them share their chidren's anxieties. I know my wife never once saw September as the "most wonderful time of the year". The transition from a summer full of family adventures with our three children, to routines doing homework and early nights was seldom easy or fun. TLC's Education website offers parents "5 Coping Mechanisms Parents can Share With Their Children".  These include modelling a positive attitude towards school, keeping the lines of communication open, and making a few preparations before the big day. Perhaps their best advice is to be solution oriented and to avoid the sort of sweeping statements like "this is going to be a big year for you!" or "Don't worry - it will all be fine" that may add to the pressure students could be feeling. Instead, congratulate them on being courageous and determined and encourage them to be themselves and do their best.

And if parents and students are anxious, one can just imagine the way staff feel. In preparing for a new school year, staff strive to create a positive caring learning environment where everyone feels safe and can do their best work.  Sites like's Voices provide teachers with lots of practical first day tips like getting to know all the students names as quickly as possible. Provincially, both the BCTF and the BC Ed Plan offer advice to educators about how to best prepare for engaging student learners. Locally, its been my experience that our school staffs are tight knit groups, more than willing to collaborate, help each other out and support one another in making their schools and classrooms great places for students to learn and grow.

Every school year brings its share of challenges.  Feeling anxious about change is natural.  Being pro-active, prepared and positive  can go a long way towards dealing with any opening day jitters. While heading back to school may never be a cause for celebration, it doesn't have to be a major source of anxiety either. I'm looking forward to the coming year. No doubt it will have more than its fair share of anxious moments, but I'm confident that staff, students and families will find ways to  deal with them. Here's hoping everyone gets past those first day jitters and has a great 2013/14 school year.

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