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Everyone starts fresh for new academic year

THE holiday is over and you have returned to Shanghai from other parts of China or from abroad. Those sweet days of rest and relaxation while spending time with family and friends seem far away. And now thoughts turn to school and the new academic year.

This may be the time when you start school for the first time, it may be when you start at a new school, and it may be when you move from primary to secondary or from middle to high school. In each of these circumstances there is often a heady mix of excitement and apprehension. You are excited to be entering the first or next phase of your education and you are also hoping that it will go well; that you will be able to manage the expectations placed on you and that you will meet and make new friends.

As a school leader there is the danger sometimes of forgetting how "stomach-churning" these experiences can be, not in any bad sense, but real nonetheless. It is important to pause for a moment and reflect upon what our schools may look like to those who are in this situation and what we can do to help students through these initial days.

Here is what you, the new or returning student should expect to find in your new school community which will help you settle quickly and to begin to give your best during the coming year:

You are welcomed as a new or returning student and there is a genuine atmosphere of warmth and acceptance extended towards you, especially if you are a new student.

Your new class is a place where you are recognized, accepted and encouraged to participate, where your abilities, aptitudes and talents are given space to flourish.

Your teachers respect you for you and seek to maximize your learning experience by recognizing the manner in which you learn best and by recognizing that evidence of attainment can be shown in a variety of ways.

Your classmates accommodate you quickly and interweave you into the established matrices of class associations and relationships.

Your teachers are knowledgeable, informed, relevant and in love with their subject, enjoying each moment they have the chance to expose you to it while at the same time encouraging you to look farther than they have yet and, in time, to make it your own. They will chart the far horizon for you as well as rooting for you in the here and now.

You will have expectations placed before you to allow you to extend your capabilities and exhibit excellence. And this will not be in the academic area alone. You should expect similar exhortation in the broader aspects of school life - the artistic and aesthetic, the spiritual, the cultural and sporting. You may feel somewhat overawed by such expectations today, but take courage, you can achieve more than you can imagine once you set your mind to it and apply yourself with diligence and creativity.

You are coming to school as part of your education. All of your education does not take place at school; the world around you is a vibrant classroom, not to be underestimated. Your education is a multifaceted undertaking involving many participants. You, of course, are central to it, but your close and extended family, contribute a very great deal, your friends, your physical environment and the electronic environment you create for yourself also play significant roles. Ever more so in this century your rounded education will help you distinguish myth from reality, your individual and societal position in an increasingly interconnected world and, essentially, who you are and why you are here.

While some of the above may not be the stuff of primary schooling and is unlikely to trouble the thoughts of many lower graders, all students returning to school about now, whether starting or returning, are embarking upon the next chapter of their own learning journey which one hopes results, in time, in them becoming truly vital and decent human beings, comfortable with themselves and contributors to whichever society they embrace in the future.

Let us wish them all every success and a very warm welcome.


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