Saturday, 13 June 2015

Preparing for your first teaching job

Tom Bennett offers practical advice for new teachers on how best to use the summer to get ready for the September term
After your pre-induction (if you had one) you face the prospect of six lovely weeks before you start the job properly. It goes without saying (so I’ll say it) that you should pick up a copy of the schemes of work, syllabuses and any resources the department has to help you teach your first term.
•  In terms of planning, it’s fair to say that you should have planned your first two weeks worth of lessons down to the resources and differentiation before you start. It will seem onerous, but the more you can do in Summer to get ready for your first week the better.
The first weeks are overwhelming, and more so if you have to plan all your lessons too; instead, get that part of the job out of the way, and then you can focus on delivering the lessons, behaviour and other matters of orientation.
  • Pick up syllabuses and schemes of work. Read the bloody things.
  • Get used to the layout of the school, and where all the important rooms are – toilets, staffroom, your classrooms, the office, the head’s office, the department rooms and offices, the playground (!), the canteen, the sin bin. Don’t be ‘the teacher wandering around looking lost’. Some schools have maps, so ask for one.
  • Draw up seating plans and get class lists so that you can notionally have them seated and organized before they enter the room.
  • Brush up on any topic you’ll be teaching if it feels rusty to you. The danger in this period is that you will over-plan. Depending on how tense you feel, you may be obsessing about it all a bit, or constantly worrying that there is something else you should be doing to get ‘readier’. There probably isn’t, unless you’re being really slack.
  • Get your lessons planned, get your bearings, and that’s most of what you need to do. Teaching is an activity where you are learning all the time, and a considerable amount of it is done on the hoof; you can only plan so much before you’re simply planning to relieve anxiety.
So don’t kill yourself; enjoy your summer break (if you have one) and get rested. You’ll need it. Those first weeks were some of the strangest I have ever experienced in my professional life; in at the deep end doesn’t describe it.
Despite all the benefits of the pre-induction, the actual beginning to the induction year is a shock to the system comparable to the scalding hot/freezing cold Turkish bath cure. Let me describe how I felt in one word: busy. I had worked in Soho bars and restaurants on Saturday nights, New Years Eves, bank holidays and Notting Hill Carnivals; I have never felt a keener sense of relentless, endless labour and disorganization as I did in those weeks.

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