New school year message to my younger self
It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you were in school yourself, or since you had school-age children, September, and the start of the new school year, is always a time of new beginnings isn’t it?
Accompanying those new beginnings (and slightly too big school uniforms, slightly too tight shoes, and slightly too severely cut hair) are the hopes, expectations and anxieties about what the coming year has in store.
I still remember how I felt on the first day I walked into my (to me huge) new senior school, having spent my junior school years happily at a small, local primary school, lovingly run by a devoted headmistress who was never hesitant about enveloping one of her charges in a hug that would threaten to suffocate you in her ample bosom.
I wondered if I would be able to cope with the work, worried whether I would fit in and find friends in my new class, was apprehensive about the much longer journey and uncertain whether I’d ever be able to find my way around the extensive campus and remember some of the seemingly arcane rules (we addressed all our teachers as Ma’am and Sir and had to stand when they came into the room) .
Of course, I did cope, did fit in and make, in some cases lifelong, friends (eventually, but that’s another story for another day), did manage the journey and did remember all the rules (even if I, ahem, broke quite a few of them along the way).
So what, with the benefit of an alarming number of decades since that first nervous day, words of wisdom would I impart to my younger self as I embarked on the beginning of a my year at a new school?
Fitting in is over-rated
Don’t try and change yourself into someone else to please/attract/satisfy other people. You are absolutely good enough as you are and anyone who doesn’t appreciate you as you are, isn’t worth your time or attention.
Everyone feels unsure
No really, they do. Maybe not all the time and maybe they hide it well. But now, and all through life, there will be times and circumstances when you think you’re not up to the task, feel uncertain about your ability to cope, or are just bewildered by the situation. You are, you will and don’t be afraid to ask. To which point:
Asking questions is a good thing….
It doesn’t mean you’re stupid because you don’t understand, it means you’re smart enough to recognise that you need clarification to make sure you do understand. You’ll be surprised at how many other people had the same question or needed the same information but were afraid to ask.
…comparing yourself to others isn’t
As long as you know that you’ve done your best, what you achieve in relation to other people DOESN’T MATTER. That’s not an excuse not to aim high - the old cliches about surprising yourself what you’re capable of turn out to be true. But comparing yourself to anyone else, or beating yourself up for not being as good/better than them is something you need to learn not to do now, because if you don’t it’ll be much, much harder to persuade yourself not to do when you’re older.
Some of your teachers will inspire you for life
You will be lucky enough to be taught by some very special people whose passion for, and knowledge of their subject, and what you learn from them both as teachers and people, will stay with you for ever. Soak up what they have to say and show you. Learn all you can from their lessons and their examples.
The stuff you have to work hard at will be the most satisfying
Of course it’s great to be good at a subject or a sport. And of course you can always learn and practice to be better. But it’s the things you struggle with, the stuff that you really have to grind at to get right that will give you the most satisfaction when you do.
Exam results won’t matter in the greater scheme of things
I realise this is a potentially controversial thing to say. And I know they will seem all-consumingly important at the time. But whilst they will have a bearing on the direction your academic career takes, trust that whatever path that is, is the one that’s meant for you, your skills and your strengths.
School offers so many fantastic opportunities and experiences - make the most of every one of them. You never know when you’ll discover something that will turn into a passion - or a profession - for life.
Oh, and It can take time to find your sense of style
When you go to a school with no uniform it can be a great opportunity to develop your own sense of style and also an alarmingly free-reign opportunity to make some (alright, plenty of) horrible mistakes along the way. See it as a blessing that you can dip your toe, or immerse yourself entirely, in the style waters in the relative safety of the school community. And be endlessly thankful every day that you can do that in a time before social media.
What messages would you have for your school-age self?
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