Creator, Saviour, Eternal Companion,
Bless this beginning of a new school year that we will face in the coming week.
Help us to learn and to work together.
Help us to listen and to know the best words when we speak or when it is better not to speak at all.
Bless all those who care for us in school and at home, for our teachers, carers and parents.
We ask this in Your name,
It’s that time of year again. The 1st September has rolled round again, and we’re all counting the days until we have to go back to school. Whether you are joining a new school, or staying put, and whatever your feelings on going back are, the reality is we’re all going to have to do it. It’s so hard to think that we have to leave the summer, sun, sand, and sea behind us and head back to work. It seems forever until Christmas, and the reality of essays, homework, practice and all that comes with school is weighing on your mind.
However, I find that every year signals a new chapter in your life, and there is always room to turn over a new page. If last year didn’t go too well, it doesn’t mean this year has to be the same. You can make school whatever you want it to be – it’s up to you.
Here’s a few things that I always find help to get me started and prepare for the year ahead.
- Make a list of everything you need for school: uniform, bags, paper, folders, pens, glue, scissors, geometry kit (including the protractor that always disappears in the first week), calculator, water bottle etc. As you buy/pack your things for school and prepare, tick off each thing rather than just putting it in a bag so that you don’t fret the day before that you’ve forgotten something.
- Either the week before you start school (if you’re really keen like my brother) or a few days before (like me) start to get up earlier than the lie-ins you have become accustomed to during the summer holidays. It’s painful, but it means you’re ready on the first day of school, and means you’re not (so) grumpy!
- Pack all your stuff the night before school starts, so that you’re not rushing around trying to find everything on the morning. Get your uniform/what you are going to wear out, and hang it up so that it’s all ready to go. I try to keep this up during the year, it keeps me organised and punctual and means I have more time in the morning to have a leisurely shower and breakfast.
- Look at your school calendar before school starts, download it onto your phone or whatever suits you best. Make sure you know what’s happening in the first week, and sort out any potential issues (late pickups etc.). Make sure to keep your parents in the loop so that you reduce stress later on..! I tend to go through the week with my Dad and Brother on a Sunday afternoon, and we write it up on our whiteboard so we all know what’s happening.
- Make sure you have a place to work. When I was younger, I used to work on the kitchen table so that my parents could supervise me. Since senior school, I decided I needed my own place to work. It needed to be quiet so I could concentrate and a space where I would be focussed on my work alone. My parents bought me a desk, and I worked in my room. However over time, this didn’t work so well, as having my work in my room really stressed me out. I could easily stay up for hours working as my parents thought I was asleep. I would wake up at 5am and remember I hadn’t done something, get my books out and work. I couldn’t sleep and it just wasn’t working for me. I wanted to have a space away from my room to separate work and leisure time, and help me to relax when I was at home. My parents suggested the kitchen table again, but I felt like I didn’t have any independence with my work that way, and it was distracting having my Dad cook in there at the same time as I had to do my homework. So I moved my desk into our old ‘play room’ which had been empty (well, full of toddler toys we hadn’t played with in years). Now my brother and I both work in there, and have bookshelves and a whiteboard to organise us. We affectionately call it our ‘office.’ What I particularly like about it is working next to the window, so I have natural light, and my eyes don’t get so strained. I limit myself to a maximum 3 hours of work after I get home, and make sure I am always in bed before 10 on school nights. My room is now where I can read and relax, escape from school work and sleep. I guess what I’m saying is find a place that works for you. Make sure it doesn’t affect your non-work life – it might be you like working in your room, or at the kitchen table. Wherever it is, I know that having the right place to work makes a huge difference.
- Make a schedule before you go back to school, or in the first week when you are a bit more settled. Know what time you should get home most days, and plan when you will do homework/music practice. On a normal night I get home around 6:15. I tend to play the piano while dinner is being prepared and then eat. After I eat I do my prep for no more than 3 hours and then practice cello before reading for a bit and going to bed. Sometimes I don’t fit it all in, and that’s OK. But I like to have a routine, so that on the whole, everything gets done to the best of my ability. Again, I know that my work turns out better if I have a break between the end of school and starting my homework, but it depends what works for you – my brother likes to get his prep done as quickly as possible and then practice.
- Print out your timetable and pin it on the wall/fridge or wherever you will notice it in the morning. Add in your music lessons/sports sessions/choir practices etc. so you know what to bring in each day. This way, there is less chance of you forgetting something you need to take with you.
- Tidy your room and workspace. When I go to school, I tend to find that the state of my areas in the house suffers, because late at night I can’t be bothered tidying them up. Before you start school tidy up your spaces and make sure you know where everything is that you might need. This means when you get home you can just work or practice, and don’t have to rustle through piles of paper to find something or work on top of clutter. As people often say ‘a tidy desk equals a tidy mind!’
- Make sure you have done all the work that you needed to do over the holidays. At the beginning of the summer I wrote down everything I wanted to get done, and colour coded it according to priority. I am making sure this weekend I have finished all the red items, and starting some of the orange items. It is always best to start off the year on the good side of your teachers (I find this works quite well when you forget something later in the year), and if you turn up not having written that essay or done those mind maps, they will probably hold it against you for the year…maybe.
- Make sure you know what you’re going to be studying in the coming year. This might involve doing some reading around the topics, or just having it in your mind so that you are not too shocked when school rolls around. I have also printed out subject content and exam specifications in the past, so that when I have learnt things in class, I tick them off and put a smiley face next to them depending on how confident I feel with that topic, and at the end of the year you can see everything you have covered and what you may need to revise.
- Pamper yourself a little bit the weekend before you go back to school. My brother and I took ourselves off to the chip shop last night to have a rare fish and chips and watched a movie, before school starts. We are used to being around each other all the time over the summer, and whilst we do therefore look forward to going back to school, we like to spend a bit of time together since we hardly see each other to talk to properly after term starts. I am also planning to bake some cookies so that coming home from school on the first few days there will be a little comfort food to ease us back into the schedule. Take some time to sit and reflect on the summer, and pray for the coming year. I have included my prayer above. Even if you don’t pray, give some time to yourself to reflect on the past year, and the coming years.
- Write a list of things you want to achieve over the coming year. Think about what went well last year, and the things you weren’t so happy with. Think about what you are worried about, or what you are dreading. Write it all down, and set yourself some targets for the term/year. E.g. ‘I am going to try and concentrate harder in Biology and not talk so much in class.’ I try and have at least one goal for each subject/activity that I do. I also write down year long projects that I want to have achieved by the end of the year. E.g. Research and visit universities. When I feel down or unmotivated during the year I often return to these and it helps me to pick myself up and get going again. Sometimes these goals change over the course of the year, but they help to keep me focussed and give me a little purpose.
I hope that if you’re going back to school in the next few days, you are looking forward to it and not dreading it too much. As far as I’m concerned, I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine, seeing all my friends again, making new friends, starting A levels, and all the opportunities that will no doubt be offered to me over the course of the year. Of course I’m not looking forward to the early mornings, the piles of work, the never ending flow of lessons and activities and music, the weekends that seem unbelievably short and the school dinners (especially the cabbage and water-thin gravy on indistinguishable meat)…but I know it’s worth it, and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to study in a safe and happy environment, when I know so many struggle, or do not have the opportunity at all.