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Careers advice from Theodora Griff

Fish out of water

After five years of teaching, I have recently started in a new school. It's so different that after just one week I feel as though I'm an NQT all over again. Help!

Well done on getting the job. And you will soon settle in, so don't worry. Starting any new job is always a bit scary at first, because every school has its own traditions, its own culture. You just have to learn fast, as both staff and pupils will have high expectations of you.

The way to learn is to ask people. Ask for a copy of the staff handbook containing all of the policies. If there is only a staffroom copy, ask to borrow it over the weekend. In any new school, you need to know the child protection and safeguarding policy immediately, including who the two officially designated child protection officers are. Then you have to be aware of the rewards and sanctions policy (it may be called the discipline policy), and the assessment or homework policy. These are the things that will enable you to work effectively with your pupils, ensuring consistency with the work of the other teachers.

It's also a good idea to run your eye over the list of other policies, so that at least you know they exist and can consult them if necessary.

Find out what the established practice in your department is for schemes of work and lesson planning: how detailed is it supposed to be? And report writing: when it will be, so that you don't plan to go away that weekend. You will need to put parents' evenings in your diary, too.

For other things, just look around and see what others do - don't assume that it will be the same as in your last school. The informal dress code (although there may be an official one in the staff handbook) is especially important. If the weather suddenly takes a turn for the better, you don't want to be the only female in a sleeveless top, nor the only male in a T-shirt, so play it safe.

By half-term, you will wonder how you could ever have worked anywhere else.

Meet Theodora Griff online on the TES Jobseekers forum or in person at a TES Careers Advice Service seminar or individual consultation. bit.lyuWhqN2.

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