I got the job and school starts in a few days….. now what?!

A post for beginning teachers who JUST got the job.

First of all, Congratulations!  Your Principal has seen your dedication, skill and dedication to teaching and has chosen you to become a member of the school community and guide these young learners.  It’s a great feeling of excitement and adrenaline but it’s also often laced with a twinge of anxiety over where to start.  As a teacher who has been teaching in LTO positions for the last few years, I understand what it feels like to go from completely uncertain, “do I even have a job?” to hitting the ground running,  “I have 3 days to set up my class for the year???”  in a matter of seconds and with only a few days before the first day of school; sometimes with little direction.

Many new and beginning teachers find themselves in this situation. Contract postings are available throughout the summer, but Long Term Occasional postings and some contracts often  come up during the mid-to-late August, which means that candidates are being interviewed a week or two before the first day of school, and are  discovering their new school and grade merely days before the school year starts.  This can be a little intimidating for new teachers who are new to a school, have few resources in their bag of tricks and don’t have the explicit or implicit knowledge of what needs to be done to ready yourself and your students for a new school year.

I have found myself in this position a few times now, and have learned (often the hard way) some practical tips and tricks that will make my classroom infrastructure a little less chaotic and a little more seamless for transitioning to a new school, new grade and new classroom.  I’m here to help and expand on Before School Starts,  Chapter 2 of THE HEART AND ART OF TEACHING AND LEARNING: PRACTICAL IDEAS AND RESOURCES FOR BEGINNING TEACHERS (ETFO, 2011).  I’ve compiled a list of things you should consider doing (and I wish I knew during my first year) in the days before school starts/during the first week as well as practical solutions for what to do in the event that you are missing the tools or information you need:

 

Do you have… If the answer is no…
  • A room key, class list, timetable and supervision schedule?
  • Speak with the office staff, administrator and caretaker
  • The basic supplies (i.e. pencils, masking tape, staples/stapler,  pencil sharpener , chart paper, markers, notebooks, paper,  glue, scissors, rulers, construction paper, file folders ) to start you off?
  • First make a list of the things you need to get you through the first week or two. Ask the office staff or administrator for some staff email addresses so that you may begin the ‘beg and borrow’ process.
  • Then obtain the Stock Order Catalogue from the office staff so that you can place an order for the things that you need and can’t access. If the catalogue is too intimidating, ask a teacher in your grade (or a grade close to yours) for a copy of their order lists to see what they order as class necessities.  Looking at the supply lists for other classes may help you conceive of what you will need and it will save the precious time you have.
  • Enough desks or work spaces for the students?
  • Speak with the caretaker or include the number of desks and tables in your ‘beg and borrow’ email to other teachers.
  • Peruse the halls of the school. Often teachers will leave furniture out in the halls that they no longer need.  Ask before taking!
  • Peek into other classrooms for ideas and refer to pages 26-30  in  “The Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning” for some ideas and inspiration
  • The emergency procedures (i.e. for Fire and Lockdown)?
  • If you can’t find any information in the classroom, ask a neighbouring teacher and make a copy of theirs or ask the office staff for help.  Include a copy of your class list, pencil and paper,  label it “Emergency Folder” and hang it by the classroom exit ( I use a pushpin and a binder clip).   I find this helpful to get out of the way early in my set-up because there is usually a fire drill during the first week of school.
  • Textbooks or teacher guides in your classroom?
  • Ask around. Your school may have a resource room where teachers may sign out the shared resources, or another teacher may have them sitting in their classroom already. You may need to include a request for this in your ‘beg and borrow’ email to teachers.
  •  Books for the students to read?
  • Go to the school library or email the librarian to help compile a variety of books for the students to enjoy during the first week.
  • Think about including a request for ‘book donations’ for used books in your first news letter to parents to build your classroom library.
  •  A computer?
  • Find out where the closest one is so that you can type up class lists and do your timetabling at school
  • If you have a computer in your classroom and it isn’t set up, contact the teacher-librarian or board technology help desk for how to log-in and connect to printers in  the school.
  • A place to store the students work?
  • Think about using classroom budget to purchase plastic bins, or plastic storage drawers for storing some of the students’ work books.  I found that sometimes relying on students storing their work in their desks can be a bit of an organizational nightmare, especially in the younger grades, as students can often ‘forget’ which folder is which and spend a lot of time looking for it. It also makes it easier to collect the student work when it comes to assessing their workbooks.
  • Find containers that can be used for storing class supplies for the students’ easy access (pencils, rulers, scissors, pencil crayons).  It may be an empty soup can for storing pencils, or you may wish to purchase some smaller baskets and label them. It will save you a lot of running around if the students can independently locate the things that they need in the classroom.

 

I have figured out that these ‘basics’ are a priority in helping me to orient myself for my new school, classroom and what’s to come in the days approaching the first day of school (and during the first week of school, if you don’t have the luxury of a few days). There is more to do (which I will expand on in subsequent posts), but you will be busy over the next couple of days accomplishing all of these things first,  for a smooth start.

Don’t worry as much about the frills and how to beautify the classroom, that will come with time and  it will reflect the classroom community. Try not to compare how your classroom looks to neighbouring teachers. Many of them have been at this a lot longer than you! You were chosen for the position because you are the best candidate for the position, and you will bring knowledge, your experiences and heart to your classroom and your students. Remember that there is a big learning curve with every new school and each grade that you will teach, and with some direction it will get easier…you will be amazed at how much you will learn and how much you will grow this year.

Congratulations again and best of luck over the first couple of weeks!

Sincerely,

Samantha Perrin

 

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Samantha.Perrin

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  1. Brian Webster says:

    Excellent job” Sammy Joe Small” You have done a great job focussing on the essential beginnings for a new teacher. Your tips and hints are definitely great for new teachers to use as a guide once they get that first contract. Congrats on a wonderful blog.

    Hopefully we will talk soon. You are missed ar Eatonville.

    Brian

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