The ‘don’t panic guide’ to the new year of high school

"Being a mother of teenage boys and a high school principal has taught me a few lessons about the start of a school year." Photo: Marion Kohler
Written by Publishing Team

As a mother and headteacher at Abbotts College Johannesburg South, Marion Kohler knows a lot about the start of a new school year. Here, she shares her unique insights and provides invaluable advice for nervous parents and students.

Being a mother of teenagers and a high school principal has taught me some lessons about going back to school. The first is that my expectation of a perfectly clear dawn for the year just isn’t possible!

One would like to imagine that the principal’s sons are very organized and efficient, excited and ready to walk through the school gates on the first day of the new year.

Books are covered, stationery is packed, school clothes are ready and waiting, groceries are done for the menu you have prepared for lunches.

Yes! Organized and comfortable in her mother’s skin! Unfortunately, that’s often the wish but not the reality, even in the manager’s house, where my two sons tell me not to panic.

“Mom, we do the same thing every year. Why do you think this year is different? Can we go play games now? I should trust them more…

Read: Carol Ofori shares five tips parents should know before their child’s first day of school

Putting on the principal’s hat becomes a very different picture. I’m here to calm down parents like me. Perfection does not exist! Wow, thank God!

As parents, we have the best intentions for our children and often feel the pressure of not doing enough or being imperfect. Just know that teachers aren’t judging you if the smooth start of the first few weeks hasn’t happened in your home.

Some good “inside” advice can help you adopt a calmer and more rational approach to these first weeks at school.

Let’s look at some tips for parents and a few things I would discuss with my teachers at an initial staff meeting before welcoming your children to school:

Reduce emotional stress

Try to ease your child’s anxieties, especially 8th graders entering high school and attending a new school. Your child’s social and emotional learning journey plays a vital role in their academic success.

Teachers understand this essential foundation for learning, and a good school will help students manage themselves, reduce emotional stress, and support them throughout their academic journey.

Finding friends to sit with during break time can be a difficult prospect for the introverted child. At my school, my teachers are on the lookout for these students and are always willing to try to connect new students with others who may have similar interests or topics.

Read also : Planning for your future while at Matric? Here are the important dates to note for the start of the 2022 school year

Parents and guardians should communicate how their child is feeling with relevant school staff to help them adjust.

A meeting with all the teachers or the principal to discuss emotional, family or school challenges is essential to the success of the year and to your child’s feeling of security.


Many parents, myself included, order textbooks late in the year from the school’s proposed supplier. Buying textbooks is a financial commitment, and many will expect end-of-year bonuses or 13th grade checks to help with this purchase.

This would mean books ordered late won’t arrive until the start of the year, depending on when suppliers get back to work after the new year. My advice is not to panic!

Teachers will understand that textbooks arrive late and will ensure that the student’s grades are available to provide will not be compromised.

Monitoring is constant and schools will always ensure that students have access to learning resources!

Stationery store

If your child doesn’t have all the stationery requirements, that’s also not the worst thing that can happen.

Teachers in most schools still give students a few weeks to settle in and allow parents to buy what is still missing.

They will also provide specific instructions for the books and how they should be covered, if applicable.

You can finally have a teenager who can do it all by himself!

A student’s schedule

Sometimes a student’s timetable is incorrect, especially in the upper grades.

This is usually a slight adjustment by the deputy director in charge of academics. Once again, we must expect upheavals at the start, but these first days are there to smooth out small errors in the schedules.

The most important part of this beginning of the year…

Whatever the panic in your household during these first weeks of the year, remember that a good school will be there to support and help when needed and not to condemn and criticize!

Over the years, I have noticed that challenges that seem impossible to many students can be quickly solved with caring and empathetic staff members at your child’s school.

The most important part of the beginning of the year is that we allow them to settle down, establish good relationships with their teachers and make healthy friends.

Fostering healthy relationships helps students develop essential life skills such as communication, cooperation, conflict resolution, and problem solving.

I wish all parents a good start to school. It may not be transparent, but we need to allow our teens to take responsibility for their learning journey.

Happy New Year 2022!

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