Back to School (for teachers, not students)


I know some states have already started, but the NT goes back on Monday. I thought I’d put together a little checklist of things that will help in the first few weeks, especially if you are new to teaching or in a new school.

School things

Most schools have a handbook which is not something to toss on your desk to read later, it is your Bible. It will have the answers to the questions you don’t know you should be asking yet, such as:

  • Who is your line manager?¬†Arguably the most important question, they are your contact for any questions or problems you have. They may direct you to someone else, but they are your first port of call and the person you need to keep informed.
  • What are the communication protocols? Are there daily meetings or newsletters?
  • What are your non-teaching responsibilities? Things such as handing in programs, class lists or other paperwork, yard duties, home rooms.
  • Do you have your own class or move around? If you are sharing with other teachers you will need to negotiate the things you can put up and the layout.
  • What is the school policy on hats/mobile phones/toilet breaks/buddy classes? The practical details that will come up in your class.
  • How are support staff managed – do you need to request them? Are they attached to students/classes or teachers? Do you get planning time with them?
  • Ditto for resources such as computers, laptops, iPads, cameras and specialist rooms such as the Library.

Class things

  • Are your personal systems ready? Diary or workpad, rolls, stationery, keys, water bottle?
  • How are you going to arrange the workspace?
  • What is your behaviour management policy or classroom philosophy? I strongly recommend you write it out to have it clear even if your school doesn’t require it.
  • How are you going to organise your resources such as books and stationery?
  • How are you going to incorporate activities for different learning styles? How are you using technology – this isn’t an option in the twenty-first century.
  • Names, names, names repeat them as often as you can.

School culture

This might be the tricky bit because it is unwritten. It includes things like

  • Are you expected to stay after school?
  • How are you expected to dress and behave?
  • How do you address students and how do they address you?
  • How does the staff room operate with things like tea/coffee and dishes?

as well as so many more. Often no-one can tell you these things because they have grown with the school and are just the way it operates. Many you can ask, but mostly you have to listen and watch.

If you are new to a school, spend the time listening and watching everything around you, the people there are the experts and your greatest help and support. And if you are an experienced staff, maybe there are some newbies you can keep an eye on. They don’t know what they don’t know.

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