Trust me I am a 4 year old.
That first year of primary school is something quite special. But being a teacher in Reception is something else. It’s pretty amazing. For each child it’s a momentous journey and you are a huge part of it. It’s a year full of surprises, of organised chaos and glitter (eco friendly, of course). In fact if you haven’t got glitter everywhere at the end of the day then you probably can’t call it a Reception classroom. You learn to predict the unpredictable (no lesson quite goes to plan, and no day is ever the same). Regardless of this, you come into school each day ready, as one can ever be working with 5 year olds. The calm before the storm. You savour that moment of stillness, when you feel the most organised, the chairs are still neat and there isn’t glitter and playdough smothered into the carpet just yet. Then it’s time, the doors open. In they bound, eager to see you, desperate to share an anecdote or to show off a toy, teddy or hidden gem. They look around proudly at their classroom, trying to spot what mysterious and exciting activities lie ahead, smiling at their friends while they organise themselves (or parents try to). Not all days begin this way, especially during the settling in period. But what you can guarantee will happen, is that someone within this cohort will make you feel a whole lot better during the day. Someone will do or say something that will make you smile, giggle, or cry from hysterically laughing. Sometimes it is like they know. It is just at that moment when you need it the most.
I do have to admit I have my rose tinted glasses on, as I sit here on maternity leave having a break (ish) from it all. Plus I haven’t had to entertain a class of 5 years olds via zoom for a year. I take my hat off to every single one of you that got involved, tried their best and survived (just). Reception is exhausting and challenging, and there are times you certainly have to dig deep for that patience, enthusiasm and calm. And we do have our fair share of tears, tantrums and accidents to manage. All of this considered, there is so much to love about Reception. It is packed to the brim with fancy dress, arts and crafts and a whole lot of imaginative play. To add to this, children make such wonderful progress. Whether that means building the confidence to ask a friend to play with them, doing their coat up independently, writing the letters in their name for the first in the correct order, or that moment when reading begins to click. Oh it’s so magical and it’s equally as exciting, as it is important.
Now let’s discuss those characters. Mixed into your class each year are a collection of individuals. And oh my, how this is a recipe for fun. The introverted and seemingly bold become as thick as thieves, the bashful mix with the brave, and the sensitive and the curious become inseparable. As the friendships start to blossom you realise that there really is something special about this age group. That these children could teach us a thing or two. The students become the masters once again. It is an age group that’s taught me how to be more creative (well probably forced is more accurate) and how powerful play and positive relationships are. It’s taught me how to live with the constant buzz of organised chaos and know that children can often learn best in this environment, how to hold out for the loo (again no choice here), and how to laugh at myself, a lot! Above all else, it’s taught me to be kinder. It never ceases to amaze me how different every cohort is, but one thing that doesn’t seem to change is their ability to accept people for who they are. They like the idea that we are all unique and that we all have different superpowers. Honestly, sometimes I just wish we could bottle up what they say and spread it about a bit. Sometimes it could make you howl with laughter, just make you stop and think or even feel inspired to change. In fact, we could benefit from being more childlike, specifically more Receptionlike. FYI it’s also an age group that is ridiculously honest. So please parents take note when you are planning to fib about a school absence. Remember they will always be keen to share those little anecdotes… So if you must fib, stick to the truth as much as you can and hope for the best.
I started my teaching career in Reception by chance, after a school reshuffle. So there I was brand new, keen as anything but feeling incredibly nervous. I think it’s what you call a baptism of fire. What luck — I had found myself amongst the greatest teachers in the world. It is hands down the best thing that could have happened for my career, but more importantly for me.