It's going to be a lot of fun

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
Get to know your new school before you start, write Paul Rowe and Roy Watson-Davis

It is common for schools to invite newly appointed members of staff to make preliminary visits to their new place of work during the second half of the summer term. Though they often end up as little more than a protracted meet and greet session, such introductions are important. But visitors must be aware that for secondary schools in particular it is a busy time of year.

To make the most of your visit, and your new colleagues' time, arrive with a checklist of information you want, including schemes of work you will be teaching from in September, and a rough idea of your likely timetable. Aim, also, to make a list (or, if possible, pick up copies) of textbooks and worksheets.

Try to get your hands on a copy of the department handbook and, if one is available, a staff handbook, even though you should be issued with an updated edition when you start. They will pre-empt many of your questions.

Make a list of questions. One that is often overlooked is whether the office has your bank details to pay your salary. Others include accommodation (do you get your own classroom? Do you share a room?), resourcing and department finance (are most resources photocopied or are there budgetary constraints?) and your pastoral responsibilities (will you be a tutor and, if so, what year group?).

Forewarned is forearmed. Try to fit in observations of classes being taught by at least one, preferably two, members of the department you are joining.

You want to get a feel for the style of teaching, but equally important is seeing what the pupils are like.

Consider existing relationships between staff and students. Make a note of any particular department or school routines at the start and end of lessons. Employing a style that fits the school on your arrival will be less of a disruption to the classes you are picking up.

Schools are busy places and you may well be left to your own devices at certain points. Use this time to scrutinise noticeboards or talk to staff in other subject areas. It would be useful to look through any pupil work available.

Try to get to know your colleagues; your visit should not be entirely about information gathering. They will be the ones who field most of your concerns and stresses when you start, so it's important you find out a little about them. The most effective departments are the ones with cohesive teams with clearly designated roles and responsibilities. You want to play a valuable part in that team, and with a few well chosen questions you can make a good start. By coming across as highly organised on your visit, you will establish yourself as someone who will be regarded as an asset.

The pupils will spend the day forming their own opinions of you as you move around their school. Try to leave a strong impression.

Paul Rowe is a consultant in Dorset. Roy Watson-Davis is an advanced skills teacher in the London borough of Bexley

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