The first day is likely to be a teacher day, but it’s always a good start to be where you are supposed to be a little bit early even if you are the first there. There’s always something to do – you can start to organise your classroom if you have one – but don’t forget to get to the meetings you need to be at on time. Being early on the first day sets the stage for the rest of the week when you have to be there before the students.
You might see established staff in their holiday gear on the first day if it’s a teacher day, but as a new member of staff, you want to make a good impression so dress casually but smartly. Chances are you will be introduced to the rest of the staff, so you want to feel comfortable but look the part.
On the first day, you can watch to see who sits where, who talks to who and seems to be friendly and who uses which mug. Loiter so that you don’t accidentally sit in someone’s seat or use someone’s mug etc. Take your own mug and sachets of cappuccino if you’re not sure what the routine is on the first day. Then ask and find out what the protocols in the staffroom are. For the rest of the week, take bottles of water and snack bars to keep your energy levels high as you might now know when you’ll get a break.
If you’re there early, you’ll probably run into the caretaker or cleaner and support staff. Say ‘hello’ to all that you see as you don’t yet know who they are and you might rely on them at some point and need them to help you with something.
Who the students respect, who you can go to for advice and guidance, where to get supplies, how to get photocopying done and who to turn to if the technology doesn’t work. Not knowing these things can lead to stress that you don’t need in the first week and will stand you in good stead for subsequent weeks.
Someone once told me that the most important person in the school was the secretary as she knew everyone and where everything was – this was good advice!
You will have been given a scheme of work for the year and text books, but there’s no need to plan all your lessons straight away. Have your first lesson for each class ready before the first week when you might be too busy to plan.
You will want to get to know your students’ names pretty quickly so set up a seating plan for each class and don’t forget to tell them the reason for the seating plan before they start asking you why there is one. Once you know your students, you can always move them around again. A seating plan shows that you are in charge, but you can do it in an approachable way saying, it’s easy for them as there’s only one of you.
You should also set some ground rules with each class. Notice, I say ‘with’ here. It’s much better for them to feel that they have had a say in making the rules as they are then more likely to follow them. They can discuss these in small groups, thereby getting to know each other a little better. You can then give out new exercise books and suggest how you would like work to be completed.
Finally, you will want to explain to them what they will be learning with you and each other and you might even start work, but don’t feel pressurised to do so in this first lesson. It won’t be until later in the week as students start to become more familiar to you and more confident in your classes that they start to test the rules!
Post them on the classroom wall and refer students to them. They will get to know what they are pretty quickly. This will all help with behaviour, particularly low level behavioural issues like incessant talking. You need to nip this in the bud right from the start so develop a system – putting your hand up and waiting for everyone to follow is one way or assign a ‘noise monitor’ each lesson (usually one of the noisy ones) to ‘shh’ the class can be another useful strategy.
You will be shattered after each day, so try not to plan too much else after school during the week. You can always do something at the weekend.
Only reply if necessary in the first week. You can delete all emails and bin all post that does not affect you and save all that to do for a later date.
Take the time to absorb your surroundings and enjoy the new challenge ahead. It took you a lot of hard work to get there and you know how rewarding it will be if you can just get through that first week!
Keely has been involved in the field of education for 25 years. She holds a Masters in Online and Distance Education, a BA Hons degree in European Languages and Institutions and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. She has extensive teaching experience of Modern Foreign Languages (German, French and Spanish) and First and Second Language English at both primary and secondary level. She has been Head of Modern Languages and has trained and mentored ITT students and NQTs. She also has a wide range of experience in assessment and development. She has been involved in the accreditation of syllabuses and has delivered teacher training internationally as well as in the UK. She has written and reviewed publications in Modern Foreign Languages, English and Humanities. Newly published in March 2016 was her first Coursebook and Teacher Resource for Cambridge IGCSE Global Perspectives. She is an advocate of the constructivist learning approach and is passionate about skills-based rather than content driven learning.