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How to boss the start of the school term

Okay. Take a long, deep breath. This won’t hurt, I promise. All you need to do is pick up your rucksack, heave through those heavy double doors, pull your skirt down just enough to get past Mrs Cadman without comment (she’ll be standing there like a dragon as always, waiting to pounce on the slightest suggestion of an upper thigh) and get to the reassuring banter of your classroom.

Some say the first day back sucks. I always quite liked it: the sweet, the gluey smell of new textbooks, the clean zip of a fresh pencil case, the post-holiday chatter. Even the teachers seem pleased to see you — yes even Mrs Cadman, provided your collar’s flat and your skirt is of acceptable (read, nunnery) length.

So how to make the most of it? How to make those first blank pages count both literally and metaphorically? I’m no expert but I did some research* and here, in no particular order, is what I learned.

*whatsapped the ‘St H Sisters’

Get your sh*t together

Dw, not All of Your Life Sh*t. Just the sh*t that involves putting your pens in your pencil case, and your pencil case in your bag along with your books, your PE kit, your (completed, ideally) homework — that kind of sh*t. Do it the night before — I know I sound like your ‘rents, but they’ve got this one, really they have. They’ve done school. You’ll feel less stressed in the morning. You’ll be less likely to forget stuff. There’s nothing worse than spending the first day nicking your friends old, dry biro and scribbling on borrowed note paper that you then have to spend that evening pritt-sticking into your new books.

Get there on time

See above re stress levels. Some folk don’t care too much, granted, but you won’t know until you get there, sweating and panting your excuses, whether or not your new teacher is a punctuality Nazi — and relative to, say, calculus, getting your ass to school on time is a relatively easy thing to achieve.

Eat breakfast

Even if it’s just a crumpet. Even if it’s just on this day, and you spend the rest of term wolfing down cereal bars at lunch time. Prepare some granola and fruit the night before, or just get up five minutes earlier. It sounds brutal, but you’ll think of me when you look for the White Magnum you were reaching for at 11am, only to find you’re actually in school and not at home next to the freezer.

Speak to someone you’ve not really spoken to before

Once school starts, everyone will settle down into their existing friendship grooves, and you’ll have missed your chance to widen the circle. Some of the best friends I have today were those I made simply by chatting to someone on the first day back, when everything is bit new and different and speaking to someone outside your friendship circle is, for a brief, hallowed period, not totally suspect. In my experience, the finest friends aren’t those you end up with by default, but those you actively choose.

Concentrate in a lesson you’ve never really concentrated in before

You might surprise yourself. The year I did this with German, having written myself off as irredeemably monolinguistic, I changed my grade from C to A, and sort of fell in love with the country, too.

Take a pukka packed lunch

Hummus, avo, tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad – whatever floats your boat. Just ensure it’s something to look forward to, to get you through the dark hours.

Pretend it’s another day of holiday

This won’t work for everyone, but bear with me on this because it saw me through a few false school starts. What if school were just another way of spending your holiday? What if you’d just woken up that day, in September, and thought, ‘hey! I wonder what this school business is like? Learning some things with my friends and running around some fields and gently, mockingly resisting the authority of adults?’ What if you decided to do it — just for a day, just to see how it went. You’d probably end up approaching it with a much more open-minded and positive attitude than you are currently, reading this in your pants with one eye on Stranger Things, with the mother of all Sunday blues on your shoulder.

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Image: Hotel Chevalier

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