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!

Will you sleep soundly tonight?

January is strange in schools. You should be relaxed and refreshed after 2 weeks off but the reality is a crowd of zombies.

OK, you have had a break from teaching but: entertaining, late nights, perhaps a little more alcohol than you would normally have and everything else that the Christmas & New Year period entails hardly make it a holiday.

On top of all that there is the insomnia. The night before I go back to school I always worry but after Christmas it is worse. I do not think I am alone!


Firstly, remember we worry because we care! We want the best for the children we teach and losing some sleep is a symptom of this.

Your feet haven’t touched the ground for the past 2 weeks, opening the laptop was never going to happen, despite your best intentions. Planning while the in laws/neighbours/random strangers (delete as appropriate) are being entertained is generally frowned upon, so you are completely unprepared. You haven’t got the excitement or adrenaline you get in September when everything seems new, you know what to expect and that might not be a good thing!

But worse than this is the expectations. This is the term where you (or the children you teach) need to make progress! There is nowhere to hide, you have had a term to get to know them, mould them and build the foundations – now you need to show what a great teacher you are! Is this a pressure you are putting on yourself, does it come from your SLT or is it the current culture in Education? Probably a mix of all 3 but unless you have a crystal ball I’m sure that assessing without levels has only added to the pressure.

Add to all of this the knowledge that the children you are going to try to teach are also going to be a crowd of zombies, how could they have recovered already from staying up to see the New Year in? It is no surprise that you can’t sleep – neither can I! There isn’t anything you can do about it, just rest in the knowledge that you are not alone and that in a few days the chaos of Christmas will be long forgotten.

How do we cope with everything else? We will deal with that, just subscribe to this blog for thoughts, insights, resources and more.

Despite all of this, my worst fear for tomorrow is tinsel! Is there anything more depressing than tinsel in January? I hope I remembered to take it all down – did you?