What should new teachers ‘find out’ when they start working in a new school?
Entering a new school for any teacher is daunting; the behaviour policy is different, times of lessons change and sometimes even navigating around the school buildings is challenging. There are certain nuggets of information that will make the academic year easier and the earlier you know these, the easier your transition will be.
10. Write key dates into your diary
Schools have an action packed calendar and there are going to be “pinch points” in the year where life as a teacher can be very busy. It is very useful to know when these points are so you can plan ahead and be prepared for those challenging times of the year.
If possible, try to find out when there is:
- An open evening
- Parents evenings
- Data input deadlines
- Report writing deadlines
- Tutor day (variable depending on the school)
Although these dates will be spread out, it is good to write them into your calendar so that you have an overview of the year.
9. Sign up for a duty
Depending on your school setting, you might be asked to do a duty. Make sure you ask about duties if no one mentions it as the important aspect of being on duty is safeguarding – being at the right place, at the right time. Make sure that you are active whilst on duty, talk to the pupils, walk around your area and keep your eyes and ears open – this will minimise any problems during the duty. Every school runs duties differently, so asking what to do is not a stupid question!
8. Introduce yourself to the office staff
The office staff have a critical role in any school. They will be the first point of call for sick pupils in your class, they will sign visitors and parents in and they have a vast knowledge about the school. Introducing yourself to the office staff will make your life in school a lot easier. Plus, if you have a question and you don’t know who to ask, they’ll probably know the answer!
7. Introduce yourself to ICT support
I remember in my NQT year, my projector bulb exploded and my lesson had to be swiftly changed as a result! In preparation for when it goes wrong, introduce yourself to the ICT team i.e. knowing who to email or where the ICT support office is can make your life easier if you have a sudden technology crisis.
6. Read the assessment policy
The assessment policy varies from school to school, some will have a whole school policy whereas others might have a different policy per subject. Ask where to find the assessment policy during your induction. Within the assessment policy you will find the expected frequency of feedback and types of feedback to use. This will allow you to form a routine with your written feedback and marking of assessments – linking this to your schemes of work that you will teach.
5. Read the behaviour policy
Another important policy to have read is the behaviour policy and find out the procedure for the on-call system. This should outline the behaviour pathway that your school uses, including when there is low-level disruption. Some schools have specific words for all teacher to use (for example, a “warning” or a “reminder”) that allows for consistency across the whole school. Make sure you use these words – it will make your behaviour management more effective. Use positive behaviour management strategies within your classroom to minimise disruption.
There is a great set of behavioural management strategies written by David Rogers here.
4. What is the ‘rewards system’?
You should use the rewards system in every lesson to motivate and praise pupils. Finding out what reward equates to is also important. Do merits contribute to house points? Do ‘stamps’ allow for pupils to go on a rewards trip? Using the schools reward system (especially in the younger year groups) will increase motivation within your classroom.
3. Teaching Assistants supporting your class
Teaching Assistants (TAs) have a positive influence in the classroom if you make time to plan and direct them effectively. Research published by the Education Endowment Foundation suggests that TAs, without a voice or direction, do not lead to positive impact on progress. Forming a relationship, brainstorming ideas together and formulating pupil strategies with your TA is important for your classroom. Find out what support you have (in which lessons) to kick-start this process. An email or informal meeting before you meet the class will ensure that you both have a clear support plan going forward.
2. Know who the SENCO is …
The SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) will have a vast amount of knowledge about key pupils in your class, including strategies on how to support them. The SENCO will also be the person to contact if you have any concerns about a specific pupils accessing mainstream lessons. Usually the SENCO creates a support plan for each child with special needs with clear strategies to support them. If you need to support on differentiating your lessons to meet the need of certain pupils, this is the person to ask.
1. Just ask
The most important thing to do in your first couple of weeks in school, is to ask lots of questions! It may sound cheesy, but “no question is a silly question” when you start at a new school.