When I said I wanted to be a teacher, many of my friends were surprised. I'm not what you would call an extrovert - in fact, I'm pretty shy. But in the classroom, this trait does not seem to manifest itself. I don't get nervous and I feel confident. I'm in control.
I wish the same could be said for the staffroom. Right from the start, I found it an intimidating place. I clammed up, becoming largely monosyllabic when spoken to, and my face was constantly red. People soon decided it was safer to leave me to it and I avoided going into the staffroom as much as possible.
Obviously, this was not ideal. I missed out on the social interactions that are crucial to managing stress and integral to a happy workplace. It also did my self-esteem no good at all, because I was so annoyed with myself.
My family know my issues well; they said I should keep going into the staffroom and battle through it. Eventually, they advised, I would get used to the environment and forget to be embarrassed or shy. I tried this tactic for a while but it was just too mortifying.
Fortunately, my mentor noticed the problem and presented me with a plan. He explained that he once had similar issues, but got over them by focusing on talking to a small group of people and then gradually increasing the number.
He told me that he had spoken to a couple of teachers from our department who would grab me when I went into the staffroom and do their best to include me in conversations.
"You won't stop feeling anxious right away," he said. "But you will get to a comfortable point quicker."
He was right. I was still a mess at the start: the first few times my colleagues beckoned me over I felt like the child with no mates at a birthday party. But gradually they didn't need to call me over. Instead, I gravitated towards them and it all felt more natural.
Over time, I reached the point where I was comfortable talking to quite a few people and lunchtime became a whole lot easier.
Of course, I still go red and clam up occasionally when people I don't know speak to me. But I'm much better at coping with this now, and can even make a joke out of it.
The writer is a newly qualified teacher in the South West of England
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