How should new teachers prepare for their first job in teaching?
A little seasoned wisdom for all new teachers entering the teaching profession…
N.b. this is generic advice, not necessarily in line with the latest English ECT guidance.
- Firstly, make sure you have a contract with all your terms, conditions and job expectations outlined.
- You should expect an induction day with ‘welcome’ materials provided by your employer to help you get off to a strong start. All policies should be shared with some essential reads: Teaching and learning (not statutory), behaviour/uniform, appraisal and capability, whistleblowing policies (all statutory).
- During induction, you should be given the opportunity to have training separate to the ‘All staff’ INSET day. Ideally, you should have a mentor (and meet them) as well as a newly qualified teacher induction tutor. In a primary school, this is likely to be one person and possibly your senior leader.
- Make sure your timetable is shared with you well in advance. You should have this at least a few weeks before you start your job to help you with planning!
- Tip-top employers will be super-efficient. You should have badges, keys and lanyards long before the first day of teaching! ‘Politely pleading’ two or three weeks into the term is a sure sign that not all processes are tip-top. On that note, email addresses, computer and access to school resources should be provided very shortly after your appointment.
Marking and Assessment
- What is your school’s marking and assessment policy? Look out for workload-sensitive language which is not only designed to raise standards, but to support the mental health of all staff. For example, ‘feedback’ not ‘marking’.
- Whilst written feedback has its place, hopefully your new school promotes other types of feedback.
- How savvy is your school in terms of identifying a range of techniques: Are they limited to just written and verbal feedback? There are 16 feedback variables.
- How is data collected? Is the assessment calendar communicated, balanced and sensible? How often is data gathered and is the information used to guide decisions or ‘beat people over the head’ with?
- The ‘best schools’ have regular feedback and assessment CPD sessions with all staff to regularly evaluate how policy lives out in practice, sharing emerging research and best practice across the organisation. Does your new school do this on a termly basis?
Planning and Curriculum
- Curriculum overviews should be available, clearly linking the knowledge and skills to be taught over time.
- All schemes of work should be written and made available to you. If you are a new teacher, I would be surprised if you are asked to write a scheme of work prior to starting your second year of teaching. Whilst there is nothing wrong with providing all teachers with the autonomy to create plans, asking new teachers to create plans should be carefully considered in their first year in the job.
- The dialogue on detailed lesson plans has shifted significantly over the last decade. Whilst you may have some statutory obligations to fulfil, you may have to provide lesson plans on a daily or weekly basis! To help manage your workload, there’s a good reason why the Department for Education recommended the 5 Minute Lesson Plan. However, it may be a battle with your line manager…
- Differentiation is a ‘hard nut to crack’, simply due to countless myths and poor evaluation methods. It’s a hard-fought process that takes years to master! Think ‘differentiation over time‘ rather than in one-off lessons…
- You are likely to be a form tutor in some shape or capacity. Don’t assume it’s just a ‘daily register’. Plan a wide variety of tasks to do (alongside the day-to-day announcements) to help build a strong bond with your tutees. It’s one of the best parts of the job!
Teaching and CPD
- The school should have a teaching and learning policy, even though it’s not a statutory document. Make sure you ask for a copy on your induction day.
- Sweat the small stuff early on. Notice every detail and pick up on every aspect of the classroom. If you ignore it, you condone it, thus signalling to students to keep on doing the things you don’t want them to do.
- Consider your body position and your body language when speaking to students. For example, if you are at the front of the classroom speaking with a student, position yourself so that you are facing the whole class.
- Follow the 17 principles of effective instruction to guide you towards effective routines for the classroom.
- Work hard to develop a wide range of questioning strategies and techniques. It’s the greatest asset you must master whilst working on your two feet!
Behaviour and Safety
- Safeguarding training should be a priority where you and every other adult in the school building is clear about procedures and practice. It’s also not a one-off event.
- Make sure you have a copy of the school’s behaviour policy and that someone has explained what it looks like in practice. Secondly, your school should ‘check in with you’ one term later to see how the policy matches the reality of school life.
- Applying the schools behaviour policy, there will be a sequence for consequences (and rewards). Try my 7-step behaviour script to help you refine your difficult conversations with students.
- Protecting students is foremost, but not at the detriment to its staff. Students carrying weapons, taking upskirting photos or swearing at staff who are then allowed to returned to class without any serious consequence is often a deal breaker for many. Make sure your know all the details…
- It’s worth taking a look outside the school gates before and after school. How do students behave? Is there a staff presence? Are members of the public respected as they walk past the school building? These small cues are a good signal of how school culture permeates the local community.
- Finally, the poisoned chalice for all teachers. How to get to the bottom of that marking pile? How to prioritise tasks? It’s never-ending and you’ll need to organise yourself very quickly into a routine. You will find countless workload strategies across this website, as well as the latest advice from government.
- On that note, you will burn out if you do not learn to balance your energy and mental health for the term ahead; do you plan in opportunities to unwind (and not just at the weekend)?
- I have proposed 11 ideas all schools could consider to help manage teacher workload. How many of them does your school currently achieve?
- You must define your meaning of work-life balance, otherwise someone else will determine this for you.
- One final point worth testing is the wellbeing of the school’s leaders. How do they model a work-life balance? How do they treat other staff? How high is the teaching staff turnover? Above 25 per cent on an annual basis rings my alarm bells…
As ever, if you need anything, then do get in touch in good faith if you have an question, problem or are seeking confidential advice.