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Starting a new school (after 25 years) – a short survival guide

Survival New School

 

I often meet teachers who have this (to me) weird compulsion to get a job, do three years, move on to a new school, three years, move…and repeat. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not one of these people.

I got a job in the mid-90s and stayed there until September 2018.  That’s over twenty years of service.

This approach did have its benefits. I became part of a community; taught generations of students who often arrived with the idea already imprinted that History lessons would be good. In school terms, I knew the systems and the idiosyncrasies of the place and who to turn to when times were tough.

With all this in mind, moving to a new school, in a new town was a massive leap. No one knows you. You have no legacy. It’s scary.

So, how to survive?

What follows are a few thoughts based on half a term in a new school.

Preparation

It’s a bit of a no-brainer but you have to be prepared. Getting those first lessons as good as you can get them sets out your stall. This is how I teach.

This is what I expect and this is what you, the students, can expect. I will invest my time in you.

I will be available for after school help. I will run a club.

I will create that class blog or revision guide to help you with your GCSE course. Word spreads.

This has led to a lot of late nights. In many ways it’s like being an NQT again. However, I think the initial outlay of effort is worth it. So, get those lessons as good as they can be. Find out what the school expects in terms of data, seating plans and marking…and get it sorted.

Allies

You are not an island. You need people for when things go wrong. Many schools operate a buddy system. If yours does then take advantage of it. Find that one person who “gets it” and talk to them.

Got a tough class? Go watch them with someone who handles them well. Got a problem with data entry or that school-specific acronym that just appeared on a document? Go find the person in charge and find out.

Talking of allies, don’t forget parents. My school has a real drive on positive communication with parents. Do it. Phone calls, emails, postcards, notes in student planners- it all helps to create a “can-do” culture but also gives you a relationship with parents that makes a huge difference.

Systems

Using the systems that the school has in place is vital. You are part of a team and a team needs everyone pulling in the same direction. So, if the expectation is to meet students at the door- do it. If seating plans have to be a certain way, get it done.

If you support the team effort, then the team will support you. Do not see problems as a sign of failure. This is hard for me. But, if you have an issue with a student then use the systems. Record the incident, make the phone call, set the detention and use it all as an opportunity to build bridges and sort the problem.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to colleagues starting out in a new school.

It’s been a  big leap into the unknown for me, especially after 25 years,  but it has been a hugely rewarding experience.

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About the author
Neil Bates
Neil Bates has spent 20 years as a history teacher, author and Advanced Skills Teacher in Hampshire and has been a long-standing member of the county's History Steering Group.

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