What does ‘back to school’ mean to you?

Andrew Clarke and Indy. EA Life

Andrew Clarke and Indy. EA Life - Credit: Archant

Has the six weeks holiday flown by in a flash, or have you been counting every day before routine is resumed? The new term starts this week, but what does Back to School mean for you?

The secret teacher

A secret Suffolk teacher reveals her hopes and fears for the new term – and how it only seems like five minutes since school broke up for the summer.

“The alarm goes off in my head and then I realise there is an actual alarm ringing; the noise is getting closer and louder. Surely alarms aren’t needed on an all-inclusive? As a teacher, bells and alarms tend to govern my institutionalised life; even when I am dreaming it seems.

Slowly, as I become conscious of my environment and the memories of my fictional summer holiday forlornly evaporate, I realise that it is an actual alarm intent on forcing me up from my sunny, sangria-soaked slumber.

Surely it’s not September already? I half ponder, hitting the snooze button for the second time. It only seems five minutes since the end of the arduous, exam-filled summer term gave light to a much-needed break from (in no particular order):

n Parent’s Evenings

Most Read

n Open Evenings

n Induction Evenings

n Report Writing

n Exam Marking

n Book Marking

n Performance Management Paperwork

n Lesson Planning

n Assembly Planning

n Tutor Time Planning

n Breakfast Clubs

n After-School Clubs

n After-School Detentions

n Lunch time detentions

n Lunch time duties

n Break time duties

n School Trips (and all of the paper work that involves)

n Child safeguarding

n After-school personal development sessions…

…there are many more but I am half asleep so I can only provide half a list.

According to the media and those who are not in some way related, married or indeed, divorced from a teacher, the summer holidays are unnecessary and over-indulgent for a profession which seems to be on strike a lot. A harsh and unfair assessment.

However, as a parent of two young children myself and the prospect of six weeks of trying to organise activities to stop the inevitable shouts of, “I’m bored!” and “This is boring!” I can see how any sense of objectivity would be clouded with the incessant, “What are we doing today?” and “What’s next?...that sounds boring!”

In the local shop the other day, someone was complaining that they didn’t know what to do with their children for six weeks. Their grievance was coupled with the usual clichés: “I wish I could have six weeks off work” and “the two best reasons to become a teacher: July and August”. It took me all my time not to charge up to the accuser armed with the baguette and bottle of Soave which I was yet to purchase, and beat the generalisations out of them.

There is no getting away from the alarm now. The two children dive-bombing me on the bed have made sure that there is no fifth attempt at hitting the snooze button.

It then occurs to me that it is not September at all; it’s the middle of August and I will be working around the clock with my colleagues so that the new Gove’ite’ curriculum will be up and ready for the 5th when the students return. We want to make sure that they get the best experience of this new National Curriculum (the third instalment over a 10 year period) so they are able to meet the challenges of a competitive and conflicted 21st Century World.

That’s why I teach. I want to make sure that the profession delivers well-rounded, literate, numerate, polite, sensitive and empathetic young people who will shape a bright future for those students who will come after them. I hope that this academic year, 2014-2015, will be one whereby the teaching profession is respected once more for its part in moulding a generation who will make positive contributions to society.

Whilst brushing my teeth I wonder how long it will be until the adverts for Christmas will begin; I bet the 1st September and my partner wagers £5 on it being the 5th. As the countdown to the Christmas Holiday begins my mind trails back to July of this year when Christmas came early for the profession. There is only one word to describe the merciless sacking of Michael Gove.


The first day mum

Whilst her four-year-old daughter can’t wait, mum Kate Dodd is today ‘preparing’ herself for Matilda’s first day at primary school on Thursday.

“Even as I write this I’m still pretty much in denial that my eldest daughter starts school this week.

I’ve ordered her uniform, bought her blue pleated tunic and white shirts from Marks and Spencer’s and had to be physically propped up when the cashier in Clarks demanded £38 for her school shoes (I know, how much?), yet I don’t think the reality has sunk in.

I remember my first day of school really vividly, which is odd as many of those primary school years are completely lost to me now. My teacher was called Mrs Castle and she smelt like home. My mum said I walked in all happy and confident, with well ironed clothes a few sizes too big and a bobbing ponytail, whilst she battled to keep her feelings of pride and loss from bubbling over.

Today, as I count down the days, I understand how she must have felt. Today I understand what it feels like to be relentlessly proud – proud of the little person she’s become, proud that she belongs to me and proud that her journey without me begins now. But I’m also deeply sad that in someway I’m losing a little bit of my baby girl.

I wonder how different she will be in a year’s time. I’m excited to see who she becomes, where her skills lie, which little friends she makes.

I hope she won’t just be one of the crowd on her first day, I hope her teacher will react if she has a little wobble, or can’t find her snack box. I hope she gets to the toilet in time, that she finds her buddy at lunchtime and that she has great fun with the paints.

Above all I hope she doesn’t miss me - as I will miss her, beyond measure.”

The relieved dad

Dad of two, Matt Gaw, is looking forward to the routine of getting back to school after the long school holiday - and so are his children.

“In a few days it begins again. The mad morning dash to the school gates, the multiple bags, projects, permission slips, payments and nit combs. We can hardly wait.

Don’t get me wrong, this summer (the first summer holiday proper for my five-year-old) has been brilliant – in parts magical. We’ve paddled in rivers, fished in streams, hacked over fields on horses and climbed trees. There have been days when we didn’t get dressed and just gorged on popcorn in front of cartoons. During that time I’ve been amazed at what both my son and three-year-old daughter have learnt in school and pre-school – from reading skills that stretch to inappropriate news headlines to a mastery of Spanish that would have Dora the Explorer thumbing her dictionary.

So why look forward to the term-time hustle and bustle? Of course, there is a sense that I’m selfishly missing the routine and rewards of my working life. After all, it’s so much easier sending emails than whittling swords and explaining why a rainbow is and a rainbow’s end isn’t. But, and more to the point, I know my children are also quietly missing the structures that come from their school environment; their friends, games, lessons and ultimately their freedom.”

The empty nester

Andrew Clarke’s daughter India is off to university for the first time this term. Whilst she may be mentally ready to flee the nest, is dad ready?

“So my lovely daughter is off to university. Am I nervous? Am I worried? Yes and no is the honest but rather unhelpful answer.

India is ready to go but, from a selfish point-of-view, the house is going to seem awfully empty without her.

The harsh truth that I have been forced to accept was delivered to me last year at a parent-teacher conference late last year when one of India’s teachers declared that he had no worries about her forthcoming A Levels. “I get the feeling that India is just marking time. She is mentally all ready at university. Isn’t that so India?” he looked at my daughter for confirmation which she supplied with a subtle nod of the head.

My daughter has always had a goal in mind, so she heads off to York to study psychology with the aim of eventually gaining a doctorate.

India is mentally ready to flee the nest but am I ready to let her go? No. The house is going to seem very empty and very quiet without her constant singing and her pulling me up on some innocent, but apparently non-politically correct, statement.

Also I shall miss our film evenings working through her bucket list of ‘old’ films and Sunday mornings spent catching up on the previous evening’s episodes of Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing.

What I shan’t miss is lying awake waiting for her to return home from a night out with her friends. Lying there catching sight of the clock and realising that its 3am and she’s still not home.

At York she can go out as much as she likes and I will be none the wiser. All I ask is that she remembers the folks back home while she is having all that fun. Maybe we can have the odd Skype conversation to keep me going until Christmas.”