What is the Best Way to Start a New School Year?

What is the best way to start a new school year? This is a question that we all ask ourselves, students, parents, and teachers. Our students, in particular, have been given much advice during the past week, from their parents and teachers, from their friends and, no doubt, themselves. They have been asked to reflect, to write down goals, to discuss targets. Much of this is future-oriented, gazing down the trajectory of the next 10 months. That’s fine. It is a powerful tool to have a sense, in advance, of the shape of the coming year.

My answer is simple—and focused on the here and now: Get up early. Remember that the early bird catches the worm. I do not necessarily mean that we should rise before anyone else on a daily basis. I am more interested in starting early, from the beginning of this past week, and maintaining that early momentum as the year winds on. A senior administrator and colleague reminded our teachers, just before all our students and families arrived, of the saying attributed to Will Rogers: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I think that this is also true for the way in which we start a year. Make a good first impression on the new year, and you will not need or want a second chance.

What might it mean to start the year early, to get going immediately, to rise bright-eyed with the dawn of a new academic year? Here are five possible answers.

  • Envision the year as a whole from the beginning
  • Enjoy and protect your August energy and excitement
  • Stay full of purpose and passion
  • Set your own targets, making sure that they will stretch you, but also that they are attainable
  • Choose one skill that you need but do not yet have and make sure that you begin to master it

If you wish to try a slightly different recipe, here are five essential ‘qualities’ from Kurt Hahn. Hahn was a giant contributor to the reshaping of educational philosophy and practice in 20th century Europe, and his influence grew to be global. He was German and publicly resisted the Nazis in pre-Second World War Germany to the degree that he was imprisoned and then had to leave his homeland and emigrate to England. The Round Square organization to which Keystone belongs is dedicated to the essential vision of Kurt Hahn. Hahn once said this:

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities:

  • an enterprising curiosity
  • an undefeatable spirit
  • tenacity in pursuit
  • readiness for sensible self-denial
  • and, above all, compassion.”

We have five shared values at Keystone. Kurt Hahn’s five qualities are a fine accompaniment to these values. Get up early, get going right away, and think on these things.

By Malcolm McKenzie – Head of School @ Keystone Academy

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