The return of Autumn

This time of year is always a little odd. The start of term for many teachers has a cathartic edge; even after three decades in the profession I still find myself trying to recall how to teach in early September, and my voice still feels the strain at the end of the first week back. The school site, for me, retains an over-familiarity born of multiple visits during the summer break, but that won’t be true for many who share the teaching vocation. I am sure that many teachers simply switch off between mid-July and the start of this month, choosing to let the adrenaline flow from the system and simply enjoy the down time. Rightly so – working in a school is a full-on experience every day between 0840 and 1550, with the demands of classroom delivery being enhanced by the unpredictability of the customers and the odd bit of crisis management. Teaching still is a wonderful, draining, exciting, frustrating and exhilarating job to be in, and all of that is amplified when the Autumn Term kicks off.

What makes the start of the September Term even more surreal is the change in the human society within Bishop’s. Suddenly there is a teeming mass of small boys spreading across the site in over-size blazers, competing for the multitude of ping-pong tables at break and hurtling at breakneck speed across the yard in pursuit of a deflated football. Each new intake of 160 boys brings with it an enormous injection of energy and more than a little chaos, but it is so good to see boys who are happy to come to their school and play their part. The older lads seem rather more sedate in comparison, but there is novelty there too in every year group. Physical growth over the summer break introduces an edge which wasn’t there in July, and they seem to have grown in experience and maturity too. The contrasts are at their most stark in the Sixth Form, as there is nothing quite like a suit to make him feel different. Suddenly that Year 11 who was a bit rough around the edges emerges into the sunlight of Year 12 as a young gentleman – and that difference is reflected by lots and lots of similar conversations with parents over these initial weeks. I am sure that the same will be true of girls who join our sixth form next year too.

So yes it’s an odd time of year to be in teaching, one where everyone has to go back to square one yet again. But it’s also rather wonderful. When I delivered my address in the first whole school assembly I could almost feel the pent-up potential of nearly 1,000 youngsters sitting in the Sports Hall in front of me. What, I wondered, will this fantastic group of boys achieve in the academic year to come?