It’s undoubtedly going to be a week of ‘back to school’ posts. Teachers often talk about having two starts to their year, but actually I think there’s something deep inside of all of us, dating back to our childhoods, that we all mark the arrival of September at least subconsciously.
Of course, for millions that will be because it marks the time of returning their own children to school. For some that will be a first day at nursery, for others the transition to high school, and for thousands more a move to a new teacher.
It’s a strange moment. Most adults recognise the anxieties and doubts that accompany starting a new job. Few recognise that for their children each new academic year can bring some of that same trepidation. And to an extent, the same is true of many of us as teachers.
This year, I become a primary school teacher. I’ve always been one really, but have denied it, having spent several years teaching Year 7 in middle schools. From September I will be teaching Year 5, and I can’t remember the last time I had so many doubts about starting a new year. Something akin to imposter syndrome which raises the question of whether I’m really capable.
I suspect there are some doubts among those coming into my class, too; a reputation for strictness precedes me. It’s not a reputation I mind, but it’s also some way off reality. But, of course, reality doesn’t exist during August… only the perception exists.
The suspicion, therefore, is that my own doubts are equally unreal. But like many other teachers up and down the land, it won’t stop me thinking of them late at night, or waking up with a start with them floating in my mind. Because one reality is that it’s a job that constantly demands both attention and self-examination.
Every September starts, for me like so many others, with a long list of aims: to do some things better, to introduce new ideas, to keep on top of something else… the list can go on. But for the most part they all boil down to the same thing: to be slightly better this year than I was last year.
For me, this year, that will involve tackling new curriculum at a new level, but also considering the reading I’ve done over the summer – especially Dan Willingham’s excellent tome – and wondering how it will change my ways of working.
Maybe part of that nervous fear is not so much about being an imposter as it is the fear of not quite living up to the image of the teacher I want to be. And if that be the case, I feel certain that the fears are quite real: I won’t be, not this year.
But maybe I’ll be just a bit closer than I’ve been before?