5 ways to make the best possible start at a new school

Creating a good first impression in a new job makes a big difference – here one international leader offers some advice

Paul Gardner

Teacher jobs: How to make a good impression in a new teaching job

As the old expression goes, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

How you start can have a major impact on the medium- to long-term success in a new role, so starting well is a must.

How to get off to a good start in a new teaching job

For those starting a new role in September, which includes myself, here are some sure-fire ways to get off to the best possible start.

1. Invest in people

The key to being successful in any work environment is developing effective and productive working relationships with those that surround you.

As a class teacher or subject teacher, you will be dependent on those around you for support, collaboration and inspiration.

Spend time getting to know those that you are going to be working with, including your classroom colleagues, the administrative staff and the site team.

The best advice I received as a PGCE student was to make friends with the reprographics guy and the school receptionist. I believe that this advice is as good today as it was 12 years ago.

2. Hit the ground running

The one thing you will want to limit as much as humanly possible in your first few weeks in the job is stress. There will be certain unfortunate but unavoidable stresses in your first few weeks so limiting the stress of those things that you are in control over is essential.

Make sure to ask your new school for key policies such as teaching and learning and behaviour before arrival, so you can have a good look and become familiar with these.

Even better, if your school has a school handbook that indicates the "ways of working" then this could also be a great place to start.

A quick read of these key documents means that you will better understand how and why things are done in a particular way in your new school.

3. Check out the systems

There will undoubtedly be new systems that you aren't familiar with in your new school.

Thankfully, the digital world has evolved significantly even in the past few years. The benefit in this instance is that any new systems that you are using more than likely have tutorials or overviews available on YouTube.

This isn't to say that you need to spend hours studying a system that you haven't been introduced to yet. However, it's very helpful when that introduction takes place to have a basic idea of what it's for and how it works.

Coming back to the first point, make sure to have somebody within the school who is willing to spend time with you explaining the school’s systems.

4. Have patience and positivity

There is always a period of transition from one role to another.

Regardless of whether you were delighted to leave your previous role or you did so with tears of sorrow in your eyes, you will spend time getting used to things in your new school and this will have its challenges.

Try your best to keep a smile on your face even as you are learning the ropes and making rookie mistakes. People will happily forgive any errors or misjudgements from someone who is new to the school, as they were there once themselves and everybody understands what it is like.

However, far more difficult to accept is a negative attitude from a new member of staff. You will likely be starting your school with fellow newbies, regardless of your position within the school, and should look to develop relationships with these people, too, so you can share your concerns and find solutions together.

5. Understand what is expected

Finally, you need to understand what your role is and was it is not.

You should have been supplied with a detailed job description and ideally success criteria linked to the specific points of the role. If you haven't, this is something you will want to explore with your line manager at the earliest possible opportunity.

The reason for this is you need objective criteria to work towards from day one. If you have this, you are more likely to feel in control of your own destiny and, as a result, you will be more relaxed and focused on your role. This is beneficial both to you and your new school.

If you are finding that this is difficult to obtain from your line manager, try and speak to those in similar positions to try to gain an understanding of what is expected.

Paul Gardner is secondary school deputy headteacher at Deira International School in Dubai. He tweets at @DubaiDeputy

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