Optimism in the air in the new academic year; nature or nurture….

Many parents actually enjoy the relative peace and tranquillity now that the children are back at school, particularly when they are working at home.

It’s not only those who work in a school or college who will understand what I mean by optimism in the air at the beginning of a new academic year, parents do too. As a parent, I usually make the point of going with my son and daughter to school on the first day of the autumn term. I often find an excuse to drive them into school on the first day instead of getting them to take the bus!

I do not always admit to it in the staff room, but I’m one of those teachers who actually look forward to the beginning of the new academic year in September. When you see the young people at the start of Term 1, you realise that half of the Y10 students – particularly the boys – are now taller than the average male teacher, as they’ve grown over the summer. This is the result of the refrigerator constantly getting emptied and the croissant you as the parent left on the kitchen worktop disappearing in nanoseconds. But they not only grow physically, they grow psychologically and emotionally too.

The thing that I like most about the autumn term is the optimism in the air. Parents and teachers begin the process of looking into what can be done to help the young person do better than they did in the previous year.  In many cases, they are usually successful in getting the teenager to buy into the plans they have for him or her, at least at the start of the year anyway. For us parents, it is a struggle to get teenagers to adopt a routine and do their schoolwork in the way we recommend. I do not know of any perfect situation where the teenager is completely on board with what the parents think is the best way. In fact, it would be worrying to have a teenager who is completely obedient, as this is not usually a healthy position. The reality is that some teenagers are more compliant than others. They must be allowed to do some thinking of their own, disagree with us on occasions, and even to make mistakes. All these are a necessary part of the growing up process, and within reason it has to be that way.

If you would permit me to share my own experience in the last couple of months with you. In August/early September, I organised what is called summer enhancement for GCSE and A-level, and the sessions were taught by young people I call Scholars. They are university students from Imperial College in London. These sessions were free, so parents did not have to pay, but the undergraduate tutors that taught them were paid at least the going rate for tuition by professional teachers, even though they aren’t. The whole experience taught me so many things that I cannot begin to list, as they are vast. Two, however, are:

a. Fingers are not equal, and we will be deceiving ourselves to even try to pretend they are

b. Nurture plays a bigger part in success than nature.

It is vital that I explain each of these points. The first point in particular needs explaining, otherwise one may sound too elitist, out of touch and perhaps abhorrent…

I will do this in the second part of this blogpost, which will be in a couple of days. Watch this space!