Take off for the future
Pen, pencil, rubber, ruler, diary. Check. Are you ready for your new job? Having finished teacher training - probably the hardest year of your life - you should be looking forward to it. But how prepared are you and what can you do over the summer to get organised?
If pupils regress as they move from primary to secondary school, the same is true of you, as you move from trainee to teacher. In your first job there will be new people, places, policies and procedures. There will also be new schemes of work or specifications to get to grips with. Preparing yourself now will make the transition easier.
The more you prepare and organise your life and work, the less stress there will be on you day to day. There are things you can do, such as entering key dates into a diary, making plans and lists of classrooms and classes in advance, and less obvious things, such as organising your laptop for easy access or making templates for use on interactive whiteboards and recording data about pupils.
Get ready for your job
A new school means new ways of working, not to mention new colleagues. Children will catch you out if you don't know who's who and what the correct procedures are for managing classroom behaviour, so familiarise yourself with the relevant procedures. Know who's who and where they can be found. It's also bound to happen that an illness will knock you out at some point - so find out who to contact and how to get work to the school for your classes.
- Make sure that you have a copy of the school handbook.
- Read the relevant policies.
- Ensure that you know the procedures to follow in case of an accident or behaviour incident.
- Obtain a plan of the school and mark relevant rooms/areas, such as staffroom, staff toilets and offices of key personnel.
- Obtain a phone list and enter key numbers in your mobile: eg, the main school number and details of the person who arranges cover.
- Know your department and colleagues. In secondary, who is your line manager? In primary, who co-ordinates the main subjects? Who's in charge of NQTs?
- Get your career entry and development profile (CEDP) ready for when you meet the NQT co-ordinator.
Brush up on the curriculum
Whether you are teaching in a primary or secondary school, the way the national curriculum is implemented will differ from school to school, usually with different schemes of work and/or specifications. Being familiar with what you have to teach and knowing in advance where you may need to brush up on your subject knowledge lets you get ahead.
- Find out the name and number of the specification used at GCSE and/or AS and A2.
- Download specifications from the exam board website and look for any support materials.
- Get copies of the schemes of work in primary subjects.
- Borrow or buy copies of the set books or textbooks that you are likely to use, at least in term one.
- Audit any strengths and weaknesses in your subject knowledge for your main subject (and others that you may have been asked to teach).
- Prepare an action plan for addressing any weaknesses.
Plan for lessons
Lesson planning is the key to successful teaching and while you can think about what you might do with your classes in general terms, the everyday planning will start once you get to know the children. In the meantime there are still things that you can do that will help you.
- Get a copy of your teaching timetable.
- Ask for class lists (if possible in a spreadsheet format to save you typing names).
- Ask if the school provides a planner or diary for you to use, or buy one.
- Make a map of your teaching area ready to make seating plans for the children.
- Make an inventory of books or equipment you should have in your classroom.
- Prepare some simple spreadsheets for entering and calculating data and think about homework and the marking policy and how pupils should be graded - by letter or number?
- Prepare class lists to mark attendance.
- If the school uses slips for detention and behaviour issues, try and get a bundle ready for use.
- Know the school reward system and ensure that you also have slips that can be used to reward pupils.
- If you are in primary, start hoarding useful materials, ie, cardboard and string.
- Look back at your teaching experience files and think about what may be useful to you - resources, worksheets etc.
- If you use an interactive whiteboard, prepare a template file with common features you use every lesson such as title, date, learning objectives.
Set up your computer
Most teachers now rely on a laptop or home computer to prepare resources and files for teaching. If you are given one, make sure that you are familiar with how it operates and if it has a specific log-on and password get these before the term starts. A pen or flash drive is almost as essential an item for teachers as a red pen. Buy as large a flash drive as you can, 2GB is a good size.
Set up folders and areas for storing your work and remember to password protect your pen drive in case it gets lost or stolen - you have to protect any personal pupil data on the drive. Remember to back up the pen drive regularly.
- Ensure that backgrounds or screensavers on your laptop are appropriate.
- Make sure that the school software is compatible with the files you have created. For example, are you using Office 2007 when the school is still on 2003?
- Check that you do not have any inappropriate or embarrassing pictures stored on your computer that you or pupils might accidentally access.
- Check if the school has a policy about using personal computers to store data about pupils.
- Make sure that you password protect your area on Windows.
- Set up folders on your laptop for organising your work, by group, by subject, by theme - you decide what's best.
Improve your health
Get some rest. Once September starts you will need to be fit and healthy for your job. Try and get some exercise and improve your fitness level (teachers do a lot of walking) and make sure that you eat healthily. Your voice is your main teaching tool so remember to take care of it: do some vocal exercises before you start the new term and drink plenty of water during the teaching day.
- How you present yourself is key to being respected as a professional by your colleagues and pupils. Find out if the school has a dress code. Think about your working clothes - build a wardrobe and think about how they will be rotated and cleaned.
- Check that your social networking site cannot be accessed by future pupils. If you are unsure about this, ensure that nothing incriminating, distasteful or potentially embarrassing is on a site that a pupil, colleague or headteacher may see.
- Plan your route to work - try a few dummy runs if possible, but be aware that traffic lessens considerably over the summer and your journey will take longer once term starts.
- Buy some cheap pens and pencils that you can lend to pupils.
James Williams is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex.