I suspect that most established teachers have already done these – or if not, you probably have better equivalents. If so, please let me know, as I’m always happy to steal ideas from colleagues to make my life easier.
Make sure you have several copies of your timetable, including if possible electronic copies stored where you can get at them if you’re away from home.
Copies – and links to electronic versions of – school schemes of work and exam syllabuses should be handy. I keep a quick reference list of the order in which I’ll be teaching topics, written in at the start of the year. I find it a useful exercise to write my own summaries of schemes of work, limited if possible to an A4 page, so I get a ‘feel’ for the context of the lessons.
When will your students be examined or assessed? Will you need to share in the marking? Both you and your students should know when this will happen, for internal and external tests.
To make it easier to set cover, ensure you have a set of the books available in school at home, on a shelf, ready to refer to. Getting the email addresses of your head of department, the member of management responsible for cover provision and a colleague in your department for backup will save a lot of worry. It might be worth swapping numbers with a colleague in case you can’t call in directly.
If at all possible, have a good look around your department resources, both electronic and paper. Know what the arrangements are for copying worksheets, where to go and how much notice is needed. Most places have too much rather than too little, so try to get into the habit of refreshing your memory before starting a new topic. Sometimes you will want to reinvent the wheel, produce an activity like someone else’s but different. That’s fine as long as you know you’re doing it. Finding out afterwards is very frustrating.
Check how colleagues share resources they’ve produced themselves. Are they added to bulging filing cabinets? Listed on an electronic scheme of work? When you produce something good, try to make it available. I guess it’s a little geeky but I still love to see someone using somethign I’ve produced – why do you think I’m spending time writing posts for, and putting resources on, this blog?
If, like me, your subject includes practical work check how equipment is requested. When are deadlines and how flexible are they? Offering to carry trays to your own lesson to save technicians a trip, or setting up practicals on a day when they’re busy, will earn you many Brownie points. Make their life easier rather than harder today and they’ll return the favour tomorrow.
Try to get familiar with the school computer systems. There are so many variables and it is easy to assume that what you have seen before is the norm.
- Can you log in from home?
- Do you have a file area, and is that accessible remotely?
- If you already have useful bookmarks, can they be imported?
- How up to date is the software?
- How does the school email system work?
- What’s the number for the technical support staff, and where are they? Make sure the first time they meet you you’re not asking for a favour.
You will probably find it is well worth setting up folders, both in your email client and file area, so that you are organised from the beginning. Keeping these folders as simple as possible will pay off in the long run. I’ve found that matching at least some of my electronic folders to the dividers in the lever-arch file I carrry around really helps. Check out the separate page on administration for details.
Setting up distribution lists on your email will be worthwhile in the long run. This is particularly useful for groups you work with in your own time (students and staff in the cricket club, or your sixth form group so you can alert them to a good TV programme).
If your school has a Virtual Learning Environment it’s well worth having a play and seeing how you can use it. At my school we’re still working on a consistent format across the department, but it’s certainly got potential. I find in particularly useful for providing extension and support activities, chances for students to review work at their own pace and giving assistance with, and reminders for, homework details.
It’s worth having to hand details of where and when the kids can use school computers for homework. It’s amazing how many printers break the day before a deadline.
Know what meetings you need to attend, when they are and where they are likely to be. How will agendas be distributed? Try to have an idea about the jobs that will result from the meetings.
An unexpected parents’ evening or set of reports can ruin your whole week. Get them on your home calendar as well as in your teaching planner. If you use an electronic calendar or planner, program a reminder a week before any deadlines.
If there are other commitments – open evenings for example – make sure you know how compulsory they are and when they will be. Management are variably sympathetic about home commitments for events they have had scheduled for a while, so plan ahead.
What are the marking guidelines at your school; how should it be done and how often? How can particularly good work be praised?
What are you expected to do about low-level behaviour issues? When are you expected to inform others, and when can you reasonably ask more senior members of staff to step in? Forget what the paperwork says – what do other teachers do about kids with mobile phones, chewing gum, make up and trainers? This is one of those issues where consistency is arguably more important than the rule itself.
If you’re new to teaching, try and set yourself realistic targets for lessons. Remember the perfectionist kid in your class at school? Spending hours making homework perfect, copying it out neatly? You don’t need to be the teacher version of that kid. Not every lesson needs to be aiming for the ‘Outstanding’ tick box and if you try, it’ll kill you. Instead, how about aiming for one lesson per class in each week or fortnight timetable to be really good. To make that possible, make one lesson lower impact. A recent blog post covered this idea so I’m not going to repeat myself.