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first week feelings

February 8, 2014

First week of a new school year is always exhausting.

While it goes without saying that there’s the initial shock of transition from holiday-mode to structure/ the demanding nature of timetables, programme outlines to finalise, and elastic hours of effort expended on being prepared, another shadow pressure emerges from heightened awareness to others’ feelings.

Here’s Nina’s raw and provocative illustration:

How would you feel to be seated in that audience? Uncomfortable? Galvanised?

Confronting and difficult as the diva may be, there’s no denying that emotions play an important – and often overlooked – part in framing our school-based experiences, especially as we endeavour to make shared meaning with others in the ecosystem.


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Hunches, gut feelings and mindfulness practice hone the “inner rudder” which assists us to excel by informing in-the-moment choices. Thus we learn how to become more

… focused and energized.

People who follow their inner sense of what is worthwhile minimize emotional static for themselves (Goleman, 1999, p. 58).

So what of our students?

  • new to the school
  • transitioning to secondary
  • nervous about change
  • affected by increasing pressures/ responsibility
  • provoked by peers
  • navigating classroom protocols
  • worried about work/ learning
  • already disaffected by past performance reports, ongoing feedback loops (some since kindy)
  • fearful

A minority, perhaps, an undercurrent even, but present every day in our classrooms, and contributing to the complex dynamic that we navigate.


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Following my first week’s experience of conducting a year 7 and 9 transition programme with the Learning & Support team exploring learning to learn, team-building, school ethos and student self-management, I learned that surprises were constant. I also learned that I love working collaboratively with staff, especially Phys Ed teachers who possess so much controlled physical potential. Our shared collegiate workspace lent itself to break time discussions about how to tackle the team sports we had planned, as well as overcome tech and logistical difficulties.

Collaboration, problem resolution, ongoing negotiations and compromise.

Interplay was invigorating. I learned how much fun this learning-with-others could be. I also discovered how much energy colleagues use. Then we shared feedback.


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Feelings again. Amplified by coaching conversations.

According to research,

leadership of change in any organisation is an emotional matter. Leaders who seek to alter the status quo must disturb comfort zones and thereby pose a threat to people’s needs for a sense of safety and security. Yet, the inevitable discomfort – their own and others – often remains under explored for its potential to inform and bring new knowledge into the change process (Beatty, 2006, p. 2).

By encouraging leaders to lean into fears, Beatty echoes the message that our students heard this week, and we will be reinforcing with them throughout week 2:

  • take risks
  • monitor self talk
  • be prepared to feel discomfited
  • have fun with learning.

Selected references

Beatty, B. (2006). Leaning into our fears: A new masters course prepares principals to engage with the emotions of leadershipPaper presented at the AARE annual conference, Adelaide. Retrieved February 8, 2014 from

Goleman, D. (1999). Working with emotional intelligence. Great Britain: Bloomsbury.


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