How you know you're no longer the new teacher in school

Now that he doesn't need to ask where the spare photocopier paper is, Michael Tidd is beginning to feel at home

As a teacher who has just joined a new school, how long does it take before you stop feeling like the new kid on the block, asks Michael Tidd

With the longest term out the way, if you started teaching in a new school in September then you probably feel like you’re beginning to find your feet by now. 

The daily routine has become normal, and you’ve got your head around which days and times you need to be in the hall for assembly. Now you come to think of it, you’d probably struggle to remember quite what time breaks were in your old school. 

In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll horrify yourself when you realise how few of your old class you can name off the top of your head.

You’ve well and truly moved on.

The trials of a newbie teacher 

Last term, there were probably plenty of occasions when you had to ask questions: what time will you be kicked out at the end of the day? Where do we keep the spare paper for when the photocopier runs out (right in the middle of your last-minute race to get things prepared, with the scary deputy head queueing behind you and rolling their eyes)? How does the laminator work – and remind me again, do I need a cardboard pouch or not?

By now the questions are fewer, but things still crop up.

You’re the first one into school some mornings, but today the photocopier is flashing some message about toner. You’ve no idea who deals with such things – it’s never been an issue before – but you remember how furious the office manager got with you once because no one had told her it was getting low. You just happened to be the one at the machine, but that didn’t seem to stem her flow. 

Now you’re here again, but with no one to tell. Do you brave it and hope you can get your 30 sheets through and let someone else deal with it?

The safety of your classroom

Safely back in your classroom, things are much more your domain. Until, halfway through maths, one of the children asks what they should do, because they’ve reached the end of their page. 

You thought you’d trained them out of such nonsense – only now you realise they mean the last page in their book. 

And they raise a good point: what should they do? In September, a stash of books was in your room waiting for you: where do you go now?

Surely breaktime will provide some relief. Up until now, you’ve been fairly certain that your school provides free drinks in the staffroom and you’ve helped yourself to tea and coffee as you go. 

But what happens when you open the pot and there’s no teabag to grasp? Presumably there’s a stash of them somewhere to top up? But who do you ask? And can you be sure that you haven’t just been helping yourself to a private supply?

The ins and outs of croquet 

Then a parent catches you at the end of the day to ask whether croquet club starts again this week or next. You had no idea there even was a croquet club, much less when it runs. 

Thankfully, if you’ve been wise, you’ve already made good allies of the staff in the front office, and not for the first time you can confess your ignorance without fear.

Hopefully, though, by now these moments are fewer, and they’ll become fewer still with time. 

The firsts become rarer, and eventually this school will become the one you know inside out, and you’ll be the one helping out the new member of the team.

That said, it once took me four years to work out how to unlock the PE cupboard in one school.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979

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