starting high school … what I learnt


This year was another one of those milestone years for us as the eldest started high school.

We are in a slightly unique position in that he is going to my old high school where some of my teachers are still imparting wisdom [and, as he has already discovered, remember me].

He also came from one of their “feeder” schools which meant he had an excellent transition program which featured four separate visits to the school, not to mention the primary school used the high school for its annual presentation ceremony.

So starting school last week, there were few surprises. But we have a little bit of an Anxious Andy and he even though he appeared comfortable and laidback, I was worried it might all hit home about 8.30am on the first day.

A week in and, aside from a few nervous moments, he is soldiering on quite well.

There were a few simple things we did though that I think helped him on the first few days that I wanted to share, for when you cross this bridge, but also so I remember when No.2 faces this hurdle in a couple of years’ time.

  1. We made sure we knew as much as possible heading in that initial day, re-read the introduction letter, what he needed to take and walked him to the first gathering in the hall before making a dignified exit. [Apparently it is not cool for parents to stay, once you get to high school, so you know.]
  2. I pre-armed him with options. Take a book to read for that moment you end up in the playground waiting for your friends. Take a spare exercise book until we work out which book is which for your subjects. Walk home with this person but if their mum tells me they are not walking home after all, I will meet you at this location. Little things to have in reserve in case things don’t work out as expected.
  3. Set up predetermined routes, meet-ups and times if your little [and not-so-little] one is a little nervous about arriving alone. Especially at large schools when in the second and third days more students are filling out the grounds.
  4. History will repeat. Seven years later, our first days in Year 7 were remarkably similar to our start back in kindergarten, albeit with a lot less tears. While the first day was surprisingly easy, the second day is always less so and that early confidence can desert them. Be aware and refer to point three.
  5. Don’t make a fuss. Yes, it’s a big step and it should be marked in history accordingly but they will be a mirror to your attitude. An elder remarked on this very thing to me on No.1 son’s seemingly devil-may-care approach to starting high school and I realised that while we had expressed much excitement and wow, it’s going to be different, we had also taken a very much “you’ll be right”, and he believed in that, too.

As someone much wiser than me once said, “I’m not going to say it will be easy …”, but with the first days out of the way, we’re ready to tackle each obstacle as it comes, get used to the homework that’s due to descend any day now and hope that we continue to build resilience, compassion and strength in our charge.

How have you found the new school year?



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