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New Term - New Rules

September has always been a milestone month for me. My brain works on an academic calendar, having spent most of my life either as a student or a teacher. I have two new years - one in September and one in January, which gives me two opportunities to start fresh and begin again.

I look forward to the start of the school year, the summer is waning, the air is colder, crisper and the smell of stationary supplies, new books and school uniforms is in the air. There is so much change at this time of year, and this change brings with it its certainties - the familiar routines and expectations - and uncertainties - new timetables and unfamiliar faces; the excitement of a fresh start and the nerves of that first day in a new class. There is also the opportunity to repeat old behaviours and bad habits, put additional pressure and unrealistic expectations on ourselves.

However, this year I have decided to do things a little differently. In the mid-Covid world we now find ourselves in, I have, like many of you, had the time to reflect on what is important to me. Change is never easy and is even more difficult when forced on us without warning, like it has been this year. Change can feel like an uninvited, unexpected visitor who outstays their welcome, turns the house upside down and drinks all the beer (just like The Tiger Who Came to Tea!). I have scrambled to catch up with the pace of change this year, with the only certainty being the unknown, the lack of control confirming that we really didn't have control in the first place and the amazing ability we have as humans to adapt and adapt quickly.

So, in light of all this change and with the new academic year set to be different and unusual for many of us, I have decided that I would take a different approach to my preparations for September this year. I am usually starting to feel the panic set in about now with questions about school coats and shoes, reading folders and bedtime routines, timetables and module preparation swirling through my head at all hours of the day and night! So, this year I have decided not to panic, to ease in to the new term and be more flexible in my approach to starting back to school. Well, that's how it looks on paper in my brand-new notebook!

Here are my new term - new rules:

I will be kind to myself, and not berate myself. I can be really hard on myself, for not doing/saying/being the 'right thing' as a mother and a lecturer (and a wife, and a sister, and a friend etc. etc.). Accepting that I will get things wrong is part of being human and loosens the grip of control I aim for at this time of year.

I will not put pressure on myself or my family - we are a team and we work together. Remembering this when I'm shouting 'hurry up!' and 'where's your coat!' on the school run is going to be a challenge, but I need to be realistic in my expectations of others and not project my perfectionist tendencies onto my family.

Progress not perfection is my motto. It is also a mantra I need to repeat to myself more often. Perfection is a sign of the need for control and the fear of being ‘less than’ or not good enough. Progress on the other hand allows for change, flexibility and the knowledge that you are doing your best, even if it doesn't go to plan. Perfection is a tyrant. Progress is a forgiving friend.

Blank spaces in my diary and family calendar do not have to be filled. Leaving space for life to just happen and to have spontaneity is freedom, and allows for play and just being, rather than treating life as one long to-do list.

I will focus on the positives and work with what I have rather than what I don't. Looking for the good in situations, keeping in mind that not everything will go to plan, and reminding myself this is an opportunity for my own fresh start are more beneficial ways of approaching and adapting to this time of change.

Rather than seeing September as a harsh line in the sand between the end of summer and the start of the merry-go-round of teaching, timetables and school runs, I will treat September as a transition month, easing into the new year and settling into new routines and schedules - even if it takes until October half term!

As always, I'd love to know your thoughts on what this time of year means to you or how you tackle/ease into changes in your life - please share these below or on my Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter.

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