PAPER PLANE

Christina Adams

And we’re off and racing in the 2016 school year. Who will be the sprinters and who the stayers? Will you burst out of the gates in a fiery explosion to tackle the race ahead or take your time to strike a calm, steady stride that will see you through the four terms?

School years are definitely for the stayers. There is no benefit in shooting out of the barriers at the start of the race only to struggle at the halfway mark (probably around term 2). Those middle terms are when sickness inevitably strikes and only the strongest make it through unscathed. Early sprinters will find themselves run down, worn out and unable to complete the year.

It is important to pace yourself and reserve some energy for what lies ahead — being able to cross the finishing line at the end of the year is what counts.

Arriving on the first day back, clutching a swag of new stationery items, being a teacher can be similar to being a student: the same sense of trepidation, anxiety and apprehension about the year ahead. We do not, however, have the benefit of safety in numbers. There is one teacher to about 25 kids and their appraisal of you in those opening moments can be harsh.

“Whoa, I thought she was supposed to be nice.”

“What’s that top she’s wearing?”

“Her voice is weird.”

“How come she can’t get the roll to work on the computer?”

“Her nostrils are flared like a horse!”

This initial judgement phase is particularly challenging for new members of staff in a school. When you have been part of the scenery for a while students have either had you for an extra or know someone who has been in your class — that’s half the battle done.

It isn’t usually until halfway through term 2 that you become “accepted” by the masses. Each class will size you up; the first time you tell off a student or share a joke with the class contributes to the way in which you are viewed by your students and whether they are willing to back you or not.

Of course, the change to your holiday routine of sleep-ins and days without bells can contribute to an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion in those first few weeks of the year. Struggling to re-adapt to the routine can make even the simplest of tasks appear monumental, as though the pile of photocopying to be done will never end.

This is when it is best to conserve your energy and pace yourself through the challenges of school camps, parent-teacher interviews, report-writing, the last lesson on a Friday afternoon and the seemingly never-ending staff meetings filled with screen after screen of data.

Good luck this year — the school year is indeed a long race. I will be cheering for you from the sidelines.

Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.