Canberra kids go back to school 2016

Children are heading back to school. Photo: Quentin Jones  The new teacher


Luke Behrendorff will start teaching in 2016. Photo: Jay Cronan

“It’s always a bit of, oh my goodness, I’m out there on my own doing it all by myself,” says new teacher Luck Behrendorff.

The 23-year-old has finished his bachelor of primary education and will soon teach his first group of year six students, at Emmaus Christian School in Dickson.

It was a year group he was looking forward to teaching.

“They’re just a little bit more mature and you can have those sort of conversations that are a little bit deeper. The understanding of sarcasm is always a good thing,” he said.

A former youth worker, where discipline wasn’t often applied, Mr Behrendorff says what had become clear to him through his teaching studies is the need to set rules for his students.

“Which was something that I struggled with. Because I looked at other teachers who had strict boundaries and thought, oh you guys are a bit over the top.”

But, after trying it his more relaxed way, he realised how it might not work. “It became really clear to me during my studies that boundaries are the way people have fun rather than the blockage of fun.”

He says he wants to be the kind of teacher who is genuinely interested in the lives of his students, even beyond the classroom.

“The kind of teacher that walks in on a Monday morning and goes how did your football game go on the weekend, and know that sort of thing about the kids so you can ask that sort of question.

“I think with just about any job, with any sphere of life, if you get relationships right everything else just falls into place.”

He says something parents should be aware of with children in year six is that it’s about being the “big kids on the block”, but also about making that transition into high school, and looking at learning life skills that will help them in the future.

“That’s one part I like about primary teaching, it’s more about building the person into the person they will be, rather than necessarily all about the academics stuff.” The kindergartener

Emily McCarthy is looking forward to starting kindergarten. Photo: Melissa Adams

Emily McCarthy is negotiating a new lunch box with her mother. She doesn’t need a new water bottle, but since she’ll be starting kindergarten this year, a new lunch box seems necessary.

Her parents and teachers have done well to get the four-year-old ready for her first day at Taylor Primary School.

She’s not worried at all, and the things she’s looking forward to the most are “friends and playing”.

She’s still about the same size as her bag, which has to be big enough to bring her artwork home. But Emily will be bigger soon – her fifth birthday is only three days into the school term.

Emily and her mother Ruth Chatterton have been reading a book about getting ready for school. Emily doesn’t know how to read yet, but it’s something she thinks the teachers will show her this year.

She’d like to be able to read her favourite books about fairies.

She’s practiced lining up. “Done it three times,” Emily says. She has a yellow vest to wear for her first week so they know that it’s her first week at school. She’s been to one or two computer classes, where they played more games.

Emily’s pre-school is next to the kindergarten, so she and her classmates joined kindergarten classes last year to practice, and even got picked up there so she would know where to wait.

“We walked up there together and the kindergartens got dropped off at preschool.”. The high schoolers

Makayla Brown,11, and Ruby Ewens,12, will both be going into year 7 at Radford College. Photo: Melissa Adams

Makayla Brown and Ruby Ewens are friends from junior school, but this year they’ll start at Radford College in year 7 with something like double the number of students than last year.

Makayla, 11, says she’s looking forward to science and woodwork opening up as subjects available to her in high school, while Ruby, 12, is excited about meeting new kids and teachers.

One thing both are a little concerned about is school camp the first week back.

“It’s in the first week of school and you pack all your bags. I don’t know where we’re going but you just go somewhere with no toilets,” Ruby says.

Makayla says she was worried they wouldn’t know anyone before they all went on camp together.

“You go to school for the first two days and then you go on camp. So you know nobody in your tutor group and then you go on camp and have to go in a tent with them.”

But with high school comes more freedom to make their own choices.

The girls are excited about the new subjects – and a new dance hall at the college – and a world of possibilities opens up at the tuckshop as well.

“[For] lunch orders, there would be four drinks and now there’s like 50 million,” Makayla says.

Jo Brown, Makayla’s mother, says both girls had bigger brothers and sisters in year 8 so “they’ve not been freaking out too much”.

“It does help,” Mrs Brown says.

“They’re just excited to get in. Because they’re staying at the same school but starting high school, the classes are doubling, so they’re really excited to meet new kids.”

For the parents, having a child who had already experienced the transition to high school also helped.

“It’s a lot more calming this time, because we know how it all works.” Tips for getting young children ready for school

When it comes to getting your young child ready for their first day of school, experts say it’s about the basics. But not things like writing and times tables.

“There’s pressure, parents think they’ve got to teach [kids] to read and to write and know their colours and know their numbers, but really the most fundamental thing is to manage their own body,” Dr Cathie Harrison, a senior lecturer in childhood education at the Australian Catholic University, says.

“Concern about that generates a lot of stress for children, and sets up physiological problems.”

She gives the example of toilet training. Where children were once trained at two or three, Dr Harrison said that has stretched out to four and five, and still needing help can be “socially confronting” at school.

Other things like diet and rest were also important to manage.

Her research has revealed a growing tendency for parents to allow children to decide when they go to bed or letting them sleep in front of the TV, meaning they arrived at school tired, even after weekends.

“Weekends used to be a rest, and you would teach important things on a Monday morning, now [teachers] won’t because [kids] come too tired.”

Another way to help prepare children for school is helping them “self-regulate”, Dr Harrison says.

That means that when they fall over, or things don’t go their way, children are able to recover and continue functioning without, for example, having a tantrum.

That kind of resistance can impede learning, she says. “Sometimes you just have the be able to manage what you don’t want to do.”

Ways to help children with this is lots of unregulated playing, where they have to work through conflict themselves and practice sharing, learn that not everyone wins all the time, and interacting with others.

Once at school, teachers aren’t able to coddle a group of 30 students, so having a child that can self-regulate is also going to keep teachers happy, Dr Harrison says.

She also recommended incorporating literacy and numeracy in daily life, by including children in tasks like cooking and setting the table, to counteract what she says is weakening oral language skills.