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Starting out

What exactly is the right way to kick off the new year?

Some people think we should spend a 2–3 weeks getting to know each other, playing icebreaker games and focusing purely on relationships.  I tend to think this deprives students of a clear mental construct of school as a place where we get stuff done and experience the thrill of achievement.

Some people say you shouldn’t smile until Easter.  Frankly, I can’t think of a worse way to learn or establish connection than through ten weeks of frowning and growling.

Some people say we should establish our class values and some get clear on the volumes of rules that students are expected to learn and adhere to … but almost never do.

I prefer to treat the start of the year like a new relationship, perhaps with a new significant other.  Transferring some of the above strategies to this context reveals how they don’t quite hit the mark:

  • would you take 2–3 weeks off work and hit the amusement parks every day with a new lover?
  • would you grumble and shout until they learn the hard way how to navigate you?
  • perhaps you’d list your big four motherhood statements and make murals about them?
  • Or might you hand over your extensive relational rulebook for a peruse and see if they still want to hang out with you. Hint for the romantically clueless like me — they won’t.

My advice is to get busy proving to your students that your classroom is a place where they’ll enjoy the thrill of academic and social progress, where they’ll be responsible for their choice with you as a supporter and that they’ll be honoured when they bring their effort to any of that.

I’d just do that.


Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. I’m already talking to many schools about commencing a Real Schools Partnership in 2023, but we do have a strict quota on the number of schools we can take on.  If you’re keen to not miss out, please drop a line to Kris at and she’ll arrange a meeting where we can discuss your school’s ambition for culture, engagement, practice and conduct.

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