When the school year begins, teachers ask us parents what we hope for our children during the year.
The first time I was asked this question, it took quite a lot of thought.
I could have easily answered with a list of academic learnings I'd like to see my child achieve: perhaps I could come up with goals for her reading, writing and maths, or some science and music hopes.
I could have given the teacher an idea of my child's learning style and how I hoped that would be catered to. Or talked through the potential social things I'd like them to focus on helping my child navigate.
There would be nothing wrong with any of those answers to that one question: What do I hope for my children during the school year? They're perfectly natural things to want a child to achieve at school.
Instead, I came up with just one request for that teacher: whatever you do, don't squash my child's spirit.
Teachers have the power to lift a child's confidence and sense of self, through building a positive relationship and helping that child through some of the tricky hurdles a school year will throw at them. They also have the potential to – at the risk of sounding dramatic – break a child's enthusiasm.
Despite my one hope, the latter happened in my eldest child's first year of school.
We had enrolled an excited, enthusiastic child who loved learning, but by the end of the year we had a sad soul on our hands; one who didn't want to go to school anymore. This came about through a series of events both in the classroom and in the playground and, despite many meetings with my child's teacher, the correct actions just weren't taken.
We finished our daughter up from school early that year, and spent the slightly longer summer holidays boosting her up again. Coincidentally, we were about to move house, so she started at a new school the following year.
I repeated my hope to this teacher: please, don't squash her newly rediscovered spirit.
Fortunately, we've now seen many examples (with both our children) of how teachers can not only keep up a child's spirit, but also build.
There was the teacher who noticed my child alone in the playground, and encouraged her to join in with a group of kids.
The teacher who, on hearing we were planning an overseas trip, helped my daughter to teach the class about where she was heading.
The teacher who, when some recurring playground incidents happened, told my daughter, "I believe you" and helped her find ways to deal with the situation.
Teachers – most of them, in my experience – are wonderfully attuned to how they can help children be happy. I believe that once that happiness and sense of security gets into a child's spirit, their learning has an opportunity to fall into place.
And so, I've repeated my little wish to every teacher who's had the good fortune of having my children in their class (yes, I'm a little biased) in the years since that question was first posed to me.
As this school year begins, I hand to the teachers children who are, of course, imperfect, but who are delightfully curious and enthusiastic.
And I'll ask the teachers: please nurture these beautiful spirits.