Back to School

Ahh, the summer. Endless nights of fun and sunshine (yes, even in England – some of the time, anyway!). If you’re lucky, the summer months might involve a trip away or two, alongside a smattering of weddings, birthday parties and barbecues, providing lots of giggles with family and good friends.

And then it hits. September 1st. Bang: the bubble bursts. Daylight hours are getting shorter and the temperature is getting lower, heralding the grey murk of winter, which is just around the corner.

For no-one is this change more pronounced than for the children of this world, for whom the carefree days of chaotic water fights and endless sleepovers are over for another year as the new school term begins. Although they might feel dread, however, at the impending start of another academic year, they are moving on to a new stage in their lives, and they have the opportunity to learn something new.

At this time of year, I still feel that sense of a new beginning, even though my schooldays are long gone and I am yet to have children of my own. Perhaps it’s because I have worked with universities for several years, which, of course, run on a similar timetable – it’s only a matter of weeks until baby-faced freshers will be gracing Halls of Residence around the world. For them, there is probably a mixed sense of excitement and fear, and also just a small bit of longing for those relaxed, pleasure-filled weeks that come to an end as August ebbs away.

So, is it normal to feel glum at this time of year? To get a touch of “Septemberitis”? I suspect that for adults – and particularly those not involved in the education system – the cause of this feeling might actually be quite different. What children often dread in September is facing something new: a new teacher, new subject or even a new school altogether. For adults, September reinforces the constant and mundane: summer holidays are forgotten and the drudgery of a familiar routine kicks in. Maybe, then, we should embrace this idea of September as a “new beginning” and use it as an opportunity to learn something.

For some time now, I have been thinking of enrolling to learn to teach English as a Foreign Language. I have tutored a fair number of foreign students but don’t have any formal qualification in this field, and I think it would be both interesting and a good professional development move for me. So this is my plan for the next academic year: to spend some of my week devoting time to learning. There are so many things we can take time to discover, whether it’s joining a new choir or dance class, learning how to make jewellery or to fix a car – and there is no better time than September, when your social calendar might be dwindling somewhat, to take the plunge and try something different.

My advice for surviving that “back to school” feeling that September brings, then, is to channel that nervous energy into a new hobby or skill. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

What will you be learning this autumn? Please leave your comments below.

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