Six reasons to be cheerful about the start of term

Posted by @thosethatcan on July 3, 2019

It's easy for teachers to feel anxious about the new academic year. But there's plenty to look forward to, says Emma Kell

It doesn’t take much for most teachers to conjure up a rising tide of apprehension when it comes to the academic year ahead. There is a lot of doubt and uncertainty around, which, combined with accusations of madness at dinner tables for even considering teaching as a profession, can lead to high levels of anxiety and some very bizarre anxiety dreams.

But teaching is ultimately such a joyful profession, with its unpredictability and laughter and the sheer making of a difference, that I thought it was about time to highlight some of the reasons to be cheerful about this fresh academic year.

From new schools and new classrooms to new faces, the sense of turning to a fresh page is something that can and should be relished. Not by making unrealistic resolutions, but in a way that represents fresh possibilities and renewed energy.

So here are some reasons to be cheerful:

1. Back to routine
Everyone is supposed to love holidays; it’s a bit of a taboo to claim otherwise.

But I can personally guarantee that behind the most idyllic of holiday shots lies sniping and bored children and endless acres of time to fill in a way that doesn't require remortgaging the house.

For others, acute financial concerns (especially if they’re not being paid over summer), loneliness, depression and profound anxiety will have dogged them for the past six weeks.

While I don’t know many who relish the 6am alarm, the return to a schedule, and to feeling actively useful and actively fulfilled, will be welcome, at least on some level.

2. Seeing young people again
If the holidays can be a bit mixed for teachers, they can be all the more so for many of our students. Financial constraints, caring responsibilities and endless hours of nothing but screens will mean that – while they will rarely admit it – going back to school, to friends, to clear structures, hot meals and mental stimulation will be a huge relief.

I've often felt my heart sink when the response to the question “What did you do over your holiday?” was: “Nothing”. It was all too believable.

While it will be equally lovely to hear about the holiday adventures of the lucky few, school provides security and safety like no other for many of our young people. And, let’s face it, there are always some we genuinely miss over the holiday and are looking forward to seeing again.

3. Catching up with colleagues
While we’re never going to get on with all our colleagues all the time, there’s no bonding experience quite like going through a school year together.

From the scrutinies and the performances to the days that chew you up and spit you out. From burgeoning relationships (although it comes with its pitfalls, many people I know have found love in the staffroom) and old friends to those who share the same sense of moral purpose. Hold on to those hours on the early Inset days (when you can still remember you’ve just had a holiday), and share photos and experiences and laughter.

4. New roles, new schools, new starts
For teachers struggling in toxic environments, finding a release and starting afresh at a new school can entirely rejuvenate their love for the profession.

It has been so lovely to hear from so many teachers who’ve decided not to walk away but rather to try a new context.

Being “new” also has a myriad of advantages. I found that I could string my newness out for over a year, when trying to avoid using complex systems or figuring out how to work my voicemail (in three years, I never did).

5. The joy of staying
There’s no feeling quite like being part of the fabric of a school: seeing siblings of students come through and either embrace or fiercely deny their relationship with their older brother or sister. For some medal-deserving veterans, there’s the possibility of meeting the children or even grandchildren of former students.

So many teachers are telling me how much they’re looking forward to developing and embedding ideas and projects that they launched recently, and then seeing them fly.

6. Confidence and lifelong learning
So many teachers I talk to speak of starting the year with newfound confidence and self-belief. This is wonderful to hear. Teachers can so often be their own biggest critics, and so holding on to this precious self-belief, despite the inevitable knocks, is worth the world.

Other teachers still are wildly excited about starting on new leadership courses or beginning further university study.

For all the negative press that that our profession gets, I will argue until my dying day that lazy teachers are an extremely rare phenomenon. In fact, teachers are hungry for new challenges and new learning, and I never cease to be inspired by this.

Of course, when asked what we’re looking forward to most, we can each in some way relate to the answer “Next summer”. And we can each want to cry for the person who says “Nothing”.

But, as a profession, we have so much to offer. Optimism is infectious, and let us embolden those still stuck in miserable jobs to seek out the joy in teaching that we know is out there.

Happy new (academic) year!

About the Author

Dr Emma Kell has 20 years experience as a teacher and is Head of English with senior leadership experience at a school in North London.
She is also a former Head of MFL. She writes extensively on school leadership and the pressures of teaching, and has recently completed a doctorate on teacher well-being and work-life balance.

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How to Survive in Teaching:

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Drawing on years of research and first-hand experience, How to Survive in Teaching offers support, advice and practical suggestions to help you and your colleagues stay flourishing, positive and most importantly, stay teaching!

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Emma's passion for teaching and teacher wellbeing shines out from every page in this gem of a book. The combination of informed analysis and practical advice, rooted in research and experience, make it invaluable.” – Sam Collins, Teacher and Founder of Schoolwell, @samschoolstuff

“Sprung from Emma's love affair with teaching, How to Survive in Teaching is a compassionate plea for teachers to take care of themselves. Emma rightly reminds teachers that even if the profession is a vocation, teaching is also a job and must be treated as such.” – Loic Menzies, Director of Education and Youth 'Think and Action-Tank', @LKMco

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