Often we hear professional sports people talking about the need to start well. This can mean having a “good first touch” or “kicking the first goal” in order to build confidence in one’s performance and maintain a high level throughout. The school year is much the same for everyone.
For most students the start of a new school year brings with it a sense of anxiety and anticipation that only dissipates when replaced with familiarity in their new surroundings. Just as every student feels differently on their first day of school, the process of transition is equally as unique and can take some far longer than others, even if these emotions are mixed with elements of excitement and enthusiasm. There are however some universal truths about the start of a new school year that can apply to all student and must beconsidered.
Importantly, the back to school rush brings with it the prospect of a “clean slate”. This notion is appealing to both teachers and students on many levels and is built on a sense of anticipation and freedom that can often bare the sweetest of fruits. For those disappointed with their previous results, the blank canvas of a brand new calendar is full of colour and promise. For those who finished strongly, a new academic year presents an opportunity for growth and to build on the strategies now proven successful. For the reluctant, the new year is simply overwhelming, full of the unknown and the unimaginable. However, there are ways of supporting both the overeager and the overwhelmed.
At Valdocco campus our culture rests on four key pillars, also known as the four R’s: Responsibility, Relationships, Rehearsal and Reflection. These pillars guide our interactions with one another, with our physical environment and dictate the way our academic standards are pursued and upheld. Aside from being the guiding principles on which our campus functions and thrives, recently these four R’s have revealed themselves as somewhat of a student handbook to the best way to start the year.
Knowing one’s responsibilities from the very beginning is a vital step in prioritising and planning for the year ahead. From day one we instil in the new cohort a sense of understanding that aside from challenging themselves to do and be their best, each individual’s responsibility extends far beyond merely their own social behaviour and academic performance. We focus on student’s responsibility to their parents, their teachers and their peers as an unwavering standard that must be nurtured and maintained. Given the unique nature of our program, a Valdocco student’s responsibility also extends to positive contributions to our wider community and the physical environment of the campus, another idea instilled in our students from day one.
Similarly, the building of new relationships and maintaining of existing ones is also an integral part of a healthy school journey and can often be the lifeline for students feeling the pressure that comes with the start of a new school year. Like any successful institution, the culture at Valdocco is only as good as the people within it and without respectful relationships, our engaging curriculum and alternative learning programs simply do not exist. Further more, running parallel to the
powerful teacher- student relationship, are student relationships with their peers. On day one, often a friendly face is the perfect remedy in an unfamiliar classroom.
Just as responsibility teaches students to be accountable, and respectful relationships are vital for a student’s sense of wellbeing, rehearsal allows students to practice their knowledge and skills, and gives them the confidence to continue to grow. Just as professional sports people train for each performance, we instil in our students the need to rehearse and prepare in order to succeed. The beginning of a new academic year presents the perfect chance to allocate time and space for rehearsal and to think about what success looks like behind the scenes. For many students, rehearsal is just as much about the how to and the when to, as the what to. From day one, creating strong rehearsal habits, a safe and silent place to work and sustainable study routines gives students every opportunity to have a successful school year.
Finally, without thoughtful reflection added to this powerful mix, students may feel themselves swaying aimlessly amidst a sea of unfamiliar timetables, cold classrooms and overwhelming information. We explain to our students that just as you should think before you act, it is important to reflect after you have acted. It is equally important, even on the first day, that students allow themselves to make mistakes and then learn from them, pat themselves on the back after a little victory, whilst never getting complacent. This is what being a thoughtful, insightful and reflective person entails: thinking about yourself, thinking about others and thinking about the best way forward.
Although there is a myriad of theories around the first-day-of-school-blues, in our experience, the four R’s of responsibility, relationships, rehearsal and reflection are guiding principles which give students the best possible start to the school year. Sometimes the hardest thing is to start well. But if you do, the simplest thing is to keep on going.
Mr Louis Goutos,
Valdocco Teaching Staff