Hop to it this September

25th July 2003 at 01:00
Di Beddow offers tips to make sure you get off on the right foot in your new job

Call me sad if you like; but the start of a school year in a new establishment, as a schoolgirl and later as a teacher, has always made my heart pound and the sap rise. There were shoes to polish, clothes to label and pencils to sharpen. Later, there were markbooks to rule up, names to be filled in and resolutions to be made - "I will always prepare the whole term's work in advance and I will mark books within a week of receiving the homework."

Here are some suggestions for new job starters:

* Be sure to get all the resources you need - a staff handbook with class lists, a school plan and details of line management structures, behaviour policy and school uniform. There is nothing like asserting yourself on the first morning as someone who already knows their way around. "Boys, you should have your planners with you for the first lesson; girls, tuck in those shirts."

* Get as much information as possible on your timetable, job description and the stock, schemes of work and procedures you will need from day one.

Then you can concentrate on children and staff when your feet hit the platform, running.

* In secondary schools, go in on results days. It makes an excellent impression if you show an interest in the achievements of the pupils leaving your new school, and you get the opportunity to offer help. "Can I staple those slips together? Shall I man that desk, or shall I make the coffee?"

* Prepare your teaching area or office. Put up displays - posters, key vocabulary, rules for writing. Publish your standards to people from the word go. Make polite, but assertive inquiries about the torn curtain, chipped paintwork or broken chair. Exude the aura of high standards: nothing will be too good for your classes.

* Treat yourself to a new teacher's planner, pencils, briefcase (look in Super U when you're on holiday in France). It's all confidence building.

* Find out as much as you can about the ethos and guiding principles of the school. What is its key agenda this year? What is most important on the school development plan? Then you can be sure to channel your energies into effective improvement and raising achievement as soon as you get there.

* If you are to be a middle manager, order The Heart of the Matter from the National College for School Leadership; if you are a senior leader, order Making the Difference. Both are pocket-sized booklets full of tips, with excellent strategies for making an impression on team-building, the environment and teaching and learning. (Details on research@ncsl.org.uk.) If you are new to teaching, Michael Marland's The Craft of the Classroom is still the most useful guide to surviving that first post.

Di Beddow is deputy head of Bassingbourn village college, Cambridgeshire

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