Starting School

Aspirations and Future Planning / September 3rd, 2019

Starting School

As we approach the ‘big day’ for the students who are either starting school or who are moving up to ‘big school’, I thought I would share my own experience of the preparation for my own first day at school. Apparently, I refused to go to nursery school. In these days of mania about the need for as much institutional education as possible, it seems a strange approach. I did have the opportunity, but I refused. My parents did not mind and did not make me go.

School IS brilliant!

In 1977, as a March birthday, you started in the January as a staggered entry. I had a happy Christmas, and then the big day for starting school came along and my parents, as well as various members of my family, gently coaxed me into the idea of school. Their hope was to convince me of just how brilliant it was going to be. Unfortunately, this was to no avail! I refused. According to my mam, I had no intention of going to school, my mind was set. Clearly, they had been ambivalent about my attendance at nursery, but school was a different matter. They had to think of getting me there with a minimal amount of fuss.

Imaginative Child

By all accounts I was an imaginative child, I had hours of play with my – very real to me- imaginary friends Kibby and Grack! We lived on a street where it was the norm for us all to play together, so I was happily socialised. I also had my younger brother to amuse and entertain me. I could already read, and could do a small amount of writing. Who needed school? Not me.

The Big Day

It came to the morning of school and I was still adamant, on no account was I going to school. With even more coaxing and persuasion I eventually relented, and said I would go. But, there was one condition, I would only go if I could take my favourite handbag. I had an old 1950’s handbag that I used for dressing up, and if I had to go to school, it had to go with me. They breathed a sigh of relief, gave me my (huge to me at the time) handbag, and off I went. Let me hear you say ‘A handbag?’ in your best Lady Bracknell voice. Yes, of all things, a handbag was the only emotional prop needed for my first day at school. After all of their initial angst, my mam and dad reported that I happily strode into school with my trusty handbag and never even looked back! Of course, the biggest irony is that I have gone on to spend most of my life in a series of schools. It could be argued from that day on that I have never even left. This particular memory has been prompted because my mam died recently. We have been going through all of her stuff, and what do you think I have found 38 years later? My handbag! She owed that bag a great deal and it had never left her.

Emotional Security

As opposed to the ‘importance of being Earnest’, what this tale does highlight is the importance of encouraging emotional security in children when attending school. With the focus being so strongly weighted towards tests and academic achievement, we need to always remember it is the emotional needs of the child that is the priority. Forcing children into situations before they are emotionally ready, does have the potential to do long term damage to their emotional health. It certainly did me no emotional or academic harm not attending school until I was nearly 5 years old.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Preparing children for school needs to be about their emotional well being, ensuring they have friends or at least know how to make friends and most importantly they must feel comfortable in their environment. This applies to both at primary and secondary school. I personally believe that it is harder to gain emotional intelligence if the sole focus has been on academic success. Whereas if the emotional security is in place, the academic success will follow. This is my approach to both my own children and as far as possible, the children I teach. I wish everyone all of the best in their new ventures this week, especially if they are starting a new school!

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