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Max Toper

Wednesday 15 September 2021

New school term, new rules?

I find there is an almost corporate-like freshness accompanying every new school year. It seems wherever you go you’re reminded to buy new stationery, a fresh new uniform, or whatever else suits society’s fancy. I am by no means attacking this notion, but I do note that when it applies to reality things often fall flat.  

The first weeks of term are, in my experience, disorganised, stressful, and to boot, there is an accompanying shock when the summer holiday ends. When I was in school I’d tell myself that this year would be different, that I would try being a good student, go to classes, please everyone… it never worked out the way I thought it would.   

Resilience to the ever-changing school environment isn’t something you develop overnight; some don’t develop it at all. And it's extremely easy to fall into the same old cycles. Regardless, one thing remains constant, life goes on, and we are in control of our destiny.  


The impact of decisions you make for the new school year

This all sounds obvious when you think about it. Get a good night's sleep, eat well, arrive early, leave on time. In practice, life doesn’t work out that way… but there is an impact these small decisions leave on the rest of your day. For example, missing breakfast or arriving sleep-deprived will leave most people agitated, they will lose focus and quickly fall behind. It can make the new term seem more daunting than it is.  

Accomplishing such things is even harder when you factor in a year of lockdowns and a carefree summer holiday where we could strut about in our pyjamas all day. (I know I did!) Nonetheless, it is important to weigh up the impacts of our decisions. I used to spend hours playing with friends online before school. This wasn’t a bad thing, I enjoyed it, it shaped me into the person I am today.  

But in doing so, I placed too much emphasis on my passions for a game, and people I’d never get to meet in the real world. Thus this affected my concentration and perception of school. And this is by no means limited to hobbies, it is entirely possible to focus too much on a good grade while neglecting your health and well-being. As the ancient Greeks said: “Everything in moderation.”  


How important are school grades?  

The sad fact is, our society places merit on a number, not the individuals’ talents or skills. I suppose it’s the clash between fantasy and reality. Our institutions and even society as a whole place great emphasis on achieving good grades and being a model student.  

In the real world, we sometimes have to make sacrifices. In my GCSE year, I abandoned GCSE maths altogether. Why did I make this choice? By Year 11 I’d fallen further behind in mathematics than any other subject. Weighing up my time and the amount of focus and attention I was willing to put toward achieving my four other GCSEs, I knew that attaining a fifth wasn’t possible.  

As important as a GCSE in maths is to employers, it was the best one to abandon at the time. This paid off, as I attained high grades in other subjects while retaining my health. This wasn’t ideal, but it was the right choice at the time, and years on from my GCSE year I worked to attain other qualifications to make up for it. My point is, one missed subject you or your student, or child isn’t interested in is unlikely to be the end of the world.  


Tips and tricks for the new school year

Here are some tips and tricks to help you through the new term based on my experience. 


  • Take the time to reflect on your position every so often. Did something go wrong? Why did it go wrong? What decisions made factored into this? What is the lesson to be learned? What can be done to change course for the better? Sometimes trying a new angle can help.  


  • Education takes on many forms. Not everyone is an academic, some people are for example better with practical tasks. And that’s okay, civilisation was built on multiple skillsets, not one. Different paths are available, it’s a matter of discovering them 


  • Don’t give up at the first sign of failure. This is corny, I know. But failure does happen, and it stings. The trouble is, if we all surrendered at the first sign of trouble, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.



About the author

Max Toper is a 19-year-old autistic author from London. He recently published a fictional story about Johnny, who is moving to secondary school and facing similar issues to the ones discussed in this blog. 


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