Facing School With a Smile


Just as it was for many of you, I guess, the last few days of August at times felt to me like a near endless round of back-to-school preparations, of cleaning bags, buying books and shoes, replacing leaking pens and chewed pencils. But it was also refreshingly different this year.

Our youngest child, our six year-old son, went to school for the very first time on September 2. As the summer has progressed, so has his level of excitement. It is approaching 50 years since I trod that same path (albeit one leading to a different school, in a different country, in a different life), so there is little chance of me recalling how I felt back then, but to see the joy radiating out of his smile has been infectious.

For him, there is the excitement of the unknown. He has two older sisters at school, but fortunately they do not seem to have poisoned his mind against the possibilities. To be fair to them, his siblings seem happy enough to be returning to the classroom, but they have already had their first day. For him, this is still unchartered territory, his adventure to explore. He slate is clean, and not just wiped clean, but brand spanking new clean.  

Before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you this is not all part of some extended “government goes back-to-school and must do better” metaphor. My boy’s anticipation of the moment, the way he shouted his excitement to his Papa, genuinely moved me. His other grandfather, my father who is no longer with us, was a teacher all his professional life, bar the two years’ national service he did with the army. He would have appreciated that openness to what lies ahead.

It would be foolish to say I wish we could bring some of that first day excitement into our business life. The key thing about having a first day at school is that you also have no experience, and having no experience is, on reflection, perhaps not the best preparation for running a company. But that enthusiasm sure as heck is worth tapping into.  

However you spent your summer break, I do hope you had a chance to unwind a little, to relax and refresh, and that you come back to work ready to do what you do best and with a smile on your face.

But before we leave the field of education, spare a thought for those who shape the minds of tomorrow’s talents. We all know that Hungary faces challenges in producing enough skilled workers today, just as employers face challenges finding staff with good soft skills.

Read the local media and you will also know there are rumblings in the teaching profession. Too many young teachers quitting and experienced older hands seeking early retirement; unfilled posts leading to complaints about overburdened staff and poor moral (one union this week said teachers earn little more than the minimum wage for skilled workers).  

Good teachers should be valued, and encouraged, and given a system that allows them to inspire and train and mould. They should be able to go back to work with smiles on their faces, just as much as their first day students. The future of all our businesses depends on it.

Robin Marshall


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