September, love it or hate it, is always a special time of year for students and teachers alike.

As a student, I always had mixed feelings about going back to school. On the one hand, I always looked forward to catching up with friends that I had not seen over the holidays. On the other hand, there was the melancholy felt for the end of summer and an element of nervousness and uncertainty about the forthcoming school year. What would the new teachers be like? Would they give us more homework? Who would I have to sit next to? Those butterflies in the stomach always came back each September. Fortunately, my primary school was within walking distance of home, so I was at least saved the embarrassment of being taken to school and seen off by my parents.

Emotions were even more contrasting when starting the first year of secondary school. The pride felt at finally leaving primary school behind and going to join “the big kids” at the local “comp” which is how we referred to the comprehensive school (state secondary school in the UK), was more than offset by the fear. Stories abounded about how badly newcomers were treated by the older pupils. So, I was mightily relieved to survive the first day without having my head forced down the toilet or having my new shirt torn to shreds. In fact, in my case at least, the rumours of bullying were greatly exaggerated, but it was still intimidating to move from a small primary school to a comprehensive with over a thousand pupils.

The uniform was another novelty when starting secondary school. In primary school we had worn a uniform of sorts, but the dress code for the first three years at the comprehensive was much stricter. For the first time, we had to wear a blazer, including a school badge, and a tie. I remember practising putting the tie on in front of the mirror. No matter how much I practised, the knot always seemed to end up either way to big or ridiculously tiny. It was not all bad: the breaks were longer and the school dinners were marginally less repugnant than at primary school.

The one time that I really did look forward to going back to school, was the year that I joined the sixth-form, the equivalent in the UK of the first year of bachillerato. We now occupied a separate building which included a “common room” with a pool table and record player. We could finally discard the uniform and leave the school during the breaks. This was a whole new world.

For teachers, going back to school in September usually means meeting new students and new colleagues, as well as seeing the familiar faces from previous years. Sometimes it also involves getting used to a new curriculum and new textbooks. For many teachers, it means a new school. As we all know, those first day nerves are not only felt by students.

Jon Ostler

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