Starting a new teaching job? Are the children the most important thing?

Your classroom looks like something from Pinterest, you spent weeks of the summer planning your first week’s lessons, you’ve read all the codes and policies – you are ready to start.  This is all great, you will need to make sure the children in your class learn.  However, right now you have a more important problem – you need to deal with the other adults!  However experienced you are, a good start really does make a difference.

Who should I sit with?

The first day back is often a non-pupil day. You have probably met a few people but you don’t know how the land lies. Are there cliques? It is usually best to play it safe, try to mix with everyone and don’t burn any bridges. How outspoken you are on that first day depends on your personality, your new role in the school and the profile you want to create. Could a well-timed joke be appropriate? Stick with a subject which isn’t likely to cause any offence (Ofsted is usually fair game and a topic which is, unfortunately, likely to be mentioned or implied  at some point) but this needs to be coupled with something insightful, you don’t just want to be known as a joker. However, be aware of the next point.

At my old school…

I know I have fallen into this trap in the past. Because I’ve been teaching a while and worked in a variety of roles and situations, I have seen lots of things before. However, I know that the teacher who has been there, tried it and got the t-shirt can be really annoying. Your previous experience is valuable and might be the reason you were employed but how you present this is key. This is true if you are an old timer or an NQT, if you constantly paint a previous school or teaching practice as an image of perfection you will wind people up!

Who are the important people?

So you have met the Head, colleagues and the bursar through the interview process and when you visited the school last term. You did an ‘ice breaker’ with all the teaching staff on the training day.  Now you need to get onside with the people who can make your life easier, the really important people. The person who cleans your classroom every evening has probably seen teachers come and go. Introduce yourself and ask if you can help them by getting the children to put their chairs up. Make them feel important because they are! Just like the Site Manager, show willing ‘which bin should I put this empty box in?’ and they will be much keener to help you in the future. When you are busy and stressed it is easy to overlook relationships with the site staff but a friendly word and occasionally a listening ear can go a long way to making your life a little smoother.

How do I make a good impression?

It sounds obvious but when you are worrying about something it is easy to let something else slip.  No matter how well intentioned you were chaining yourself to the desk with your array of highlighters, the Head will not be impressed if you are late to the staff meeting because ‘it was Thursday not Tuesday in my old school’. Get yourself organised in Outlook or a diary and set reminders for things such as break duty and meetings.  I love using Microsoft OneNote to help organise your notes.  Check out my blog on this and my help videos. Get the simple things right, it will make a good impression.

Oh, I thought…

Just because your old school did things a certain way does not mean this school will be the same so ask questions. Hopefully, you have been given the marking policy and curriculum documents but do you know about staff room etiquette? Who collects tea money and how often? What happens on birthdays? Do I need to bring my own mug (yes these schools still exist)? Can tea be taken to the classroom? These are important questions, you really don’t want to be using the Head’s mug on your first day, but you won’t know unless you ask so find a trusted colleague and interrogate them.

Can I really do this?

NQT or promotion, teachers are usually more critical of themselves than anyone else and it is easy over the summer break to wonder if you can do it. Don’t let this show! It can be a fine line between arrogance and self-deprecation but you need to walk it as both can be equally off putting in a new colleague.

What sort of teacher do you want to be?

A new job is a chance to have a fresh start. Obviously, we all have to work within the framework of our school policies, hopefully you found out if this suited you during the application process. However, think about the type of teacher you want to be and use this fresh start to set up the routines and habits to achieve this. You might want to consider your future career and therefore what you want to achieve in this role or perhaps you want to set some boundaries on work/life balance following a previous experience.

Whatever your goal make a good first impression, it will help you in the long run. Remember, they appointed you because they thought you could do it and that you would fit in, you just prove them right!

The Wonders of OneNote

In the last two years I’ve started a love affair! No, it isn’t a mid-life crisis, this is a moment of clarity.  Microsoft OneNote is the software I (and many other teachers) have been waiting for and it has been under our noses for years!

Why has OneNote driven me to write this open love letter? It isn’t just another clever app, this software is truly practical with a multitude of uses in just about any environment, especially schools.  Here are some of the reasons why I am passionate about OneNote.

It is accessible.  OneNote has been a standard issue on Windows machines for years but remained undiscovered to most.  However, with Microsoft’s push into the education market, OneNote has been developed and extended to be freely available on every device I own.  Simple sharing, across platforms and devices, is key.

OCD organisation.  Just being accessible isn’t enough, to be long term love rather than a dalliance, the program needs to prove to be useful.  OneNote does this because it organises everything in an intuitive and familiar way.  It really is an electronic ring binder with section tabs and pages.  However, as you would expect, the electronic organisational features go way beyond what you could achieve with a paper binder.

So easy, a child could use it.  I implemented the class notebooks with a Year 4 class (8/9 year olds) and all of them, regardless of ability, were navigating OneNote independently within a couple of sessions.  I didn’t explicitly teach OneNote skills, I simply embedded it into some lessons and let them loose.  They loved it because it made learning easier.  Screen clippings and audio feedback were two of the most popular features.  The Microsoft feel means that anyone who has been using Office (i.e. nearly everyone) will immediately be at ease with the layout and menus.

OneNote ribbon
The OneNote ribbon menu is familiar and easy to navigate making the software accessible to all.

Teacher Features.  The ease with which work can be shared with the whole class via the Class Notebook, the accessibility granted by the Immersive Reader and the integration with Outlook, Teams and other Microsoft products make this software something every teacher can fall in love with.  Even if you do not feel you have the infrastructure or confidence to use this in class, start with your own notebook and see how easy it is to organise and access your plans.  Soon you will be sharing it with others and getting them on board.  Staff notebooks, for things such as meeting notes, are a natural extension.

So much to love.  I mentioned just a few of the many great features I have discovered and I am finding more every day.  By following @onenotec and @msonenote on twitter, you will find that there is always something new to learn.  I intend to spread the love through my blogs and videos here, with an aim to share notebooks online in the future so please sign up to my blog or follow me on twitter @topdad75.

Start a love affair with Microsoft OneNote.  It is free – much cheaper than most love affairs!