Dealing with the Unknowns - New Job Part 2
Starting teaching or moving schools can be both exciting and daunting to begin with. It’s a world filled with lots of unknowns that can make us feel both apprehensive and nervous.
There are several key factors that can make this a stressful situation;
- not knowing your way around
- not knowing your colleagues
- not being embedded yourself as a teacher
- having a lack of personal space or classroom
- having to learn the new systems of a school
All of these factors are common to any teacher who is new to school, even if they have been teaching over 20 years. Knowing these feelings aren't isolated to only yourself is important. The excitement and apprehension of a new role can be an interest mix.
Here are my top tips on how to manage the stress of the unknowns.
1) Visit your new school
Okay maybe this one is a little late now if you are starting on Monday. However, to help get a feel for your new school and to find your feet I would always suggest you try to find time for a visit to your new school. Often transition week is a good week to do this in a secondary school as you may even be able to teach some year 6 classes.
When visiting the school make sure you ask all your questions. However, the most important thing to do is socialise and get to know your new colleagues. Share a bit about yourself over a cup of tea and show an interest in them. It is always important to make social connections, these are the people who will support you when you start.
2) Have a Strong Start
Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail
Knowing what you are going to be teaching when you arrive is important. In order to do this, ask for class lists and schemes of work to be sent to you in advance so you can start to consider how you might approach teaching your new classes.
Read the whole school policies and make sure you know how a schools behavioural system and marking policy works. Reading the behavioural policy will save you any unnecessary stress and awkward situations with students. I’ve certainly had it where they try to teach you the behavioural system and tell you what you can and can’t do. Often they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes to get away with mischief. Marking policies can be open to interpretation across departments in a school and it’s important to know how your departments works. By reading the marking policy and seeing examples of marking in your new department you can save yourself an unnecessary workload.
3) Stage Fright
First day nerves are something the majority of people suffer with at various levels of extreme. If you find yourself getting to nervous then move around, laugh or focus on your breathing. I know I focus on my breathing every time before I present. Anybody who has seen me present might have seen me do a sneaky power pose before I start as well. Daft right? Yes of course it is, but I don’t care it works for me by making me laugh and feel more confident. Try and find a technique that works for you.
Having a lack of space can cause anybody’s anxiety levels to increase. If you don’t have your own classroom, ask the teachers in the faculty office if anybody has any space on their shelves, in their cupboards or if you’re lucky a spare filing cabinet. Often there is space lurking in the most hidden of places. If you are moving classrooms continually, it may be worthwhile having responsible student book monitors, who move the books at the end of a lesson to the classroom you are in with them next. This way you know the books have already been moved and don’t have to worry about moving them yourself the next day. Speak to the teachers of the rooms you are in and from personal experience they should be more than happy to give you a space to put your books.
Just because you are starting a new school or even teaching as a career does not mean your wellbeing should go out of the window. Find time for yourself to relax in the evenings. Set a night where you do no school work. I always go to a band on Thursday night for example, this is ‘me time’. Make sure you try to eat healthy and drink lots of water to keep your energy levels up. I know some people who enjoy drawing and others who enjoy going for an evening walk. The important thing is you keep being yourself and you have mentally have a time to recover. Try to go home at a reasonable hour most nights. Ultimately though if you are struggling don’t be afraid to ask for help.