Kirsty Johnston is an investigative reporter at the New Zealand Herald.

Nerves and cheer as year begins

Tomorrow marks the first day of the 2016 school year for many kids. As students pack their bags and check their uniform fits, Kirsty Johnston speaks to several about their year ahead.
Tomorrow marks the first day of the 2016 school year for many kids. Photo / Getty Images
Tomorrow marks the first day of the 2016 school year for many kids. Photo / Getty Images

For the 5-year-old, it's the thought of a new sandpit that's most exciting. At 13, it's the endless list of sports and subjects to try. And for the student aged 17, heading back to school is bittersweet - at the end of this year he'll leave teachers and friends and the comfort of college behind.

The three students interviewed by the Herald before their first day this year were both excited and nervous - looking forward to making new friends or reuniting with old ones.

They were slightly apprehensive about the work ahead (well, not our 5-year-old) but ready to dig in.

Rebekah Bradfield, 13, had prepared for high school by taking extra maths classes, while Anirudh Bhatnagar, 17, spent the summer at hockey training.

Five-year-old Kiara Hillman has been practising writing her name.

As for what's cool this year, sorry, Facebook, but it seems Instagram is the social media platform of choice.

Also, apparently no one really watches TV any more, with Netflix or YouTube more popular among teens.

And despite what you might hear about kids hating the return to school, survey results show the majority are actually looking forward to it.

The research, from Paper Plus, found 74 per cent of 6- to 10-year-olds were excited or happy to go back to school. Girls were more excited than boys to return to the classroom.

The research also found friends played a huge role.

The students were most excited about seeing friends (69 per cent), meeting new friends (14 per cent) and learning new things (12 per cent).

Children ranked lunch, a hat and their favourite pens, pencils and exercise books as the most important thing to pack for their first day.

The survey asked children how they would help if they see others are feeling nervous. Top strategies included playing with them, walking them to their classroom or sharing books, pens and pencils with them.

Their advice included:

"You don't have to learn everything at once. You do have to take steps and steps to get better. It's a really cool place to make friends."

"It is scary at the beginning but you will get used to it, especially if you make friends and know your teacher better."

"It is fun at school because you get to play in the playground with your friends. And you get to make art which you can take home to show your mum and dad. And the teachers are nice. And sometimes you get to go swimming."

Kiara Hillman, 5, Porirua

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What are you most excited about when you start school?

Building sandpits. I like playing with the buckets and making a castle. You just get heaps of sand and then tip it over and then pat the sandcastle and then flip it over and then tap on it on the bucket.

What else are you excited about?

Writing. I can write my name. I can read books off the shelf.

What books do you like reading?

SuperGirl. It's about square ice.

Are you nervous about going to school?

Me and my mum will hold hands. We have to stop and let the cars go.

Rebekah Bradfield, 13, Westlake Girls High School

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What are you most looking forward to about starting school?

I'm looking forward to meeting a whole bunch of people, new teachers, and more sports opportunities and a lot more subjects compared to intermediate.

What kind of preparation have you been doing?

I did a few maths classes last year to bring me up to Year 9 level and this year my sister is going to start tutoring me hopefully. I bought [the uniform] last year. I think it's quite formal and quite posh actually.

Anything you're nervous about?

I know that Westlake has really high standards and a high reputation. I'm nervous about holding up my sisters' reputations and meeting everyone, like their teachers. I'm hoping to get into the drama club, so a bit nervous about that. I'm pretty excited, but mainly nervous.

What do you think will be the biggest change for you this year?

The workload and the amount of subjects and people.

What books are you reading?

Over New Year and after Christmas I read about three books of Vampire Academy. It's a vampire teenage romance kind of thing.

What are you watching?

The main thing is Netflix. Teen Wolf. Pretty Little Liars is quite popular.

What apps are you using?

Instagram. Everyone uses Instagram. We communicate on Snapchat, Instagram or iMessage.

What saying or slang do you use all the time?

I can't say it because I'm not allowed to swear but it's one about laughing. And lol. Everyone still says that.

Anirudh Bhatnagar, 17, Mt Roskill Grammar

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What are you most looking forward to about school this year?

I'm looking forward to meeting my friends and really getting into the year. And we've got a camp coming up so that's going to be exciting.

What will be the biggest challenge for you this year?

The study. I'm looking at doing medicine possibly or architecture, so taking geography, calculus, physics, chemistry and graphics. I'm going to be busy.

What are you not looking forward to?

It's my last year and school's going to end. I've found school fun, hanging out with friends, so thinking of it ending and losing friends, I'm not looking forward to that.

What other roles do you have?

This year I'm a prefect, sports captain, and playing First XI hockey. It's going to be a juggle with study and sport and meetings.

What are you watching?

I'm mainly watching YouTube. Following the NFL and the NBA.

What about social media?

I'd say Instagram is the biggest social network for us. Facebook is becoming way too cliche. On Instagram you can post more photos. Most people are on there.

What sayings are you using?

Our hockey group has a saying "there's beauty behind the madness". It means it's going to feel bad at the start but it's going to be worth it. You can apply it to anything.

What's your advice for younger students?

Don't go too hard at the start. Work out what you like and focus on shaping your path from there.

Back-to-school tips

Younger kids ...

• Get the basics right - early to bed, wake up on time, pack your bag the night before and make sure there's a healthy lunch.

• For younger children, practise the route to and from school. Make sure your child understands who is picking them up and from where.

• Have a quiet place for homework, and make sure you have time to listen to your child's concerns.

• Make sure your child's backpack is the right size. It shouldn't be more than 3cm above their shoulders and not lower than their hips.

• Remember that regular attendance can have a significant impact on your child's learning progress. Even a few days' absence can result in your child falling behind.

Older kids ...

• Pack some emergency snacks. Teenagers use a lot of energy so nuts, crackers and fruit will help you through the long, hot afternoons.

• If you don't have a uniform, pick clothing that you're comfortable in. Lay it out the night before to avoid outfit anxiety.

• Get to know your teachers - you'll have them for the whole year. Show up on time and be respectful. You don't want to make a bad first impression.

• Don't worry if your friends aren't in your classes. You can meet some new people and see your old friends at lunchtime or after school.

• Try setting a bedtime routine. If you do the same thing every night - wash your face before bed and then read a chapter of a book, for example - your brain will know it's time to rest. Experts advise that if you must watch TV or use your phone, do it in another room to help associate your room with sleeping.

Top 10 apps for tech savvy students

Primary school

The Human Body ($5.99)

Explore an interactive and working model of the human body, see the heart beat, guts gurgle, lungs breathe, discover how skin feels and eyes see. Designed for kids to discover what we're made of and how we work.

Monki Chinese Class (Free with in-app purchases)

Empower your child to learn Chinese with a a simple, engaging and colourful app that will teach basic Chinese words and characters.

Star Walk 2 ($3.79)

A stargazing tool that combines astronomy with premium technology to deliver an effortless journey through thousands of stars, comets, and constellations.

The Everything Machine ($3.99)

Dive inside your device and make your own machine! Kids can build anything they can imagine using hardware and sensors like the camera, speakers, microphone and gyroscope on an iPad.

Kid's Vocab ($2.59)

Build your vocabulary with these games designed to help understand words rather than just memorise them.

High school

30/30 (Free)

This task manager dedicates time to specific tasks and notifies you when you need to change to work on your next task.

Notability ($7.49)

Voted the "Best Productivity App" in 2015, Notability lets you take notes, sketch ideas, annotate PDFs, mark up photos, record lectures, provide audio feedback and more. The app has also been optimised for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

iTunes U (Free)

Anyone with an iPhone or iPad can learn from the world's largest collection of free education content including courses and collections from leading schools, universities, museums and cultural institutions.

Duolingo (Free)

Voted "App of The Year" in 2013, Duolingo teaches languages with a simple interface and structured curriculum combining speaking, reading and hearing activities.

EasyBib (Free)

Take the frustration out of referencing with the simple to use app allowing you to cite books, websites and journals in a few swipes and have them sent straight to your inbox.

- NZ Herald

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