Going into the classroom marks an exciting time ahead, but you may also feel apprehension. You certainly won’t be alone in this. Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start will enable you to thrive, not just survive.
Before you start
If you can't visit the school or college beforehand, try to find out as much as you can by looking at its website or prospectus, and reading its most recent inspection report, which will give you useful information about the establishment, its strengths and weaknesses, and the issues it is currently addressing.
Aim to familiarise yourself as much as you can on your first day with the layout, as well as the timings and daily routine, for example, lesson times, playground duty, etc. Find out how and where you can secure your personal belongings.
Also find out about the school's resources. Establish exactly what equipment and which resources are available, and if limits are imposed upon their use (there may also be booking arrangements for some equipment). Also, check who pays for what (photocopying, telephone calls and stationery, for example) and find out what you might be expected to provide.
Give yourself a few achievable goals for the first week. For example, you won’t learn all the students’ names but aim to cement a handful in your mind each day.
New teachers should also take time to read through the records the school has on each student you teach. Ask relevant pastoral heads if there is anything specific you should know about, for example, medical conditions, national curriculum levels reached and any special educational needs.
Some of you may be undertaking your initial teacher education (ITE) programme wholly in a school via School Direct or Teach First. Before starting your course, carefully read the conditions of the organisation that is providing your programme place so that you fully understand the level of support which they are committed to providing.
Policies and procedures
Make a note of anything that crops up over the first few days that needs clarification. Individual school or college policies should cover most questions, so it is worth spending some time each day familiarising yourself with these. These are sometimes held online, or you can ask at the school office. In particular, look out for policies on teaching the gifted and talented, behaviour management and discipline, teaching and learning, and assessment.
It is essential you are familiar with the school or college’s emergency procedures (what to do in case of fire and where the fire exits are, the first-aid procedure, etc).
You should also establish the protocol for matters such as reporting sickness and leaving the premises during the day. More specific information on the school/college ethos can be found in its policies, for example, on:
- equal opportunities
- school uniform, the wearing of jewellery, etc.