7 things not to say when you start at a new school

Want to make a good first impression? Adam Riches offers his essential guide to keeping your foot out of your mouth

Adam Riches

Woman holding finger to her lips

Your first days and weeks at a new school can be tough for a number of reasons. 

New kids, new ways of doing things, new colleagues to get to know. It can all be a bit overwhelming. 

So you don’t want to increase the pressure on yourself by saying the wrong thing. 

Here are a few clangers to avoid:

1. “That’s not how we did it in my old school”

A sure-fire way to lose friends from the outset is to tell them they’re not doing something like how you used to do it. Remember, you don’t work “there” anymore, you work here.

Quick read: 9 ways you know you’re in back-to-school mode

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From the magazine: Why teachers’ first impressions really do count

2. “The behaviour isn’t that bad for me”

Making comments about how easy you’re finding it will only amplify the fall from grace when you do have an issue (hopefully you won’t, but it’s pretty likely). Be humble and make sure you aren’t boastful about your successes.

3. “I don’t smile until Christmas”

If you’re hard-nosed with the students, staff who don’t know you might get the wrong impression. Smiling never hurt anyone and not smiling until Christmas was never really a thing…was it?

4. “I’ve got a reputation for…”

A new school means you’ve got no reputation. It can be a bitter pill to swallow for some teachers who have built up a persona at a previous job, but you’ll need to re-establish yourself. What people think about you is not up to you.

5. “You’ll never be able to do that”

Be a radiator, not a drain. Coming in with a negative attitude isn’t helpful. Those who have moved jobs a few times will know that there are always disagreements in those vital first few weeks…but don’t let being negative be the cause of them.

6. “Where’s…”

Being new means getting used to a new environment. There’s no harm in asking for help when you need it, but you’re also an adult. Make sure you listen to training and on tours, so that after the first few days, you know where things are and you know how to get from place to place (especially if you teach in more than one room).

7. “What happens if I go against the grain?”

Don’t start off by being difficult. If you aren’t sure that you agree with how things are done, make sure you give them a go first. Don’t put your head above the proverbial parapet by saying that you aren’t going to go with the flow. Also, are you sure you have picked the right school if you feel like that?

Whether you’re a new teacher, a middle leader or a senior leader, you’re still new, so just give a little extra thought to what you say and how you say it.

Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and a lead teacher in English

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