Starting a new teaching job is a daunting prospect. The start of term in September is a bit of shock to the system for any teacher – even those that have been at a school for a long time. The staff training day(s) crammed with new information, detailed exam analysis and various meetings about this, that and the other can be overwhelming and overloading.
If it’s a new teaching job, you get all the above as well as having to get to grips with the things that everyone else takes for granted: passwords for computer access to the timings of the school day to where the staff toilets are located.
You’ll be exhausted long before you actually come across a pupil in a classroom!
Starting a new teaching job in the middle of an academic year can be even more difficult. After all, in September everybody is gradually easing themselves into the swing of things. By February, everybody is well into it.
Whenever and wherever you begin a new post, one thing remains the same – you will be expected to get straight into the thick of it. So, here are some tips about how to make a strong start in your new teaching job.
Plan, if you can
If at all possible, visit your new school before your start date. It gives you the opportunity to get to meet a few people and get to grips with your new surroundings at the very least. It will give you a great head start to ask for things you need to know, such as passwords, keys, where resources are kept, etc. to make the first working day a little less stressful.
Establish routines, rules and expectations
The core purpose of any school is teaching and learning so being able to focus on this as much as possible as soon as possible (rather than how the register system works) will be to your advantage.
First impressions count, and none more so than with the students you teach. Get off on the wrong foot with your new work colleagues and you will probably be able to smooth things out relatively easily over time. Get off to a bad start with the students you teach, and the situation is much more difficult to correct. Lost ground is much harder to claim back.
In the classroom, the best way to make a good start is to establish what your routines, rules and expectations are. Of course, to a large extent these will be determined by whole school policies and systems. But a behaviour policy means nothing on paper alone. It is how it is applied that is crucial. Students will be waiting to see just how you apply things. They will want to know what your boundaries are. They will push those boundaries and test them. This is how you really show that you have a presence in the classroom. This, combined with enthusiasm, subject knowledge and showing that you have a human side, will earn you the respect of the students.
Have a presence around the school
Having a strong presence in the classroom is obviously fundamental. However, having a presence around the school is important too. Duties and lunchtimes give you the opportunity to get to know students (and staff) a bit better. They help you to get to know the school. And, as you get seen, the school community gets to know you better too.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to say no
If you are new to a teaching job in a new school, whether as an NQT or an old-hand, you are not expected to know everything. Yes, there is an expectation that you will hit the ground running – teachers have to. But, there will be questions that arise, problems that come up and things you simply don’t know. Being assertive means not being afraid to ask when you need to, rather than plodding on regardless.
In a desire to make a good impression, teachers in new jobs often take on too much. You don’t have to accept every opportunity/request/plea you are faced with. You are new, so helping out with the breakfast club in the morning, running the Year 10 football team, leading four after-school interventions for Level 3 readers, and giving up your weekends for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions… all in the first few weeks is too much!