March 11, 2015

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The first day- Nervous? Excited? Here are some ideas to help you get through it


It is extremely unlikely that you’ll be thrown in at the deep end on your first day at school, and expected to actually look after a class on your own. What is more likely that you will be asked to observe the class or teacher, perhaps helping out with a small group of students once they have been set a task on which to work.

Here’s a check list of tips for what to do (and what not to do) on that crucial first day:

Get your bearings

Begin to learn the layout of the school. If you’re not given a map, ask for one at school reception and spend time studying it. If you get time during the day, do a walk about around the school buildings to familiarise yourself with them.

Locate the facilities

Find out where the vital amenities are: especially important are the toilets, staffroom, assembly hall, canteen, school office and photocopying machine.

Find out about timings

You will need to become completely au fait with the timing of the school day. Timetables vary considerably from school to school, so make sure you learn: what time the school day starts and finishes; how long lessons are; how long breaks are; whether there is a daily or weekly assembly and when this takes place.

Get some information

If you can, get hold of a copy of some of the more important school policies. It will prove especially useful to read about the school rules and the whole-school behaviour policy, especially if you are working in a ‘challenging’ school.

Make some useful contacts

Find out and memorise the names of key members of staff. As well as the class teacher, identify a couple of senior managers in case you need to refer a student. Make a real effort to get to know the school secretary and the office staff. These people know a lot about the way that the school runs and they can make your life much easier by answering many of the questions that you have.

Approach the staffroom with care

A word of warning: do watch where you sit in the staffroom. It my seem petty, but teachers can be extremely territorial about their favourite chairs. Before you park yourself in a seat, ask ‘is it ok to sit here?’ This might seem silly to you right now, but just wait until you’ve got a full-time teaching job and you find a trainee in your own favourite seat in the staffroom.

This article is an excerpt from Sue Cowley's Guerilla Guide to Teaching, published by Continuum. You'll also find the latest on Sue's books on the Continuum blog

Aamani Khan
Aamani Khan