Here I write some of my thoughts as I head into the new teaching year. I recently received a message from a newly qualified teacher who was filled with anxiety about her first week at a new school. It got me thinking…

We can go a long way towards alleviating the generalised anxiety that goes with anticipating a new school year after a long summer break by focussing on the first lesson.

First impressions are inordinately powerful. The impression we make in those first moments of the year will set the tone for its entirety. Most teachers know this, but this fact needn’t be a source of anxiety. Instead use this opportunity to set the scene for a brilliant year to come. I offer you a loosely co-ordinated list of what I will be doing to make a good impression on my classes this year:

  • Greet them all at the door with a friendly handshake
  • Take the time to have a decent chat: share my plans for the year, listen to theirs, share some laughs and personal experiences and make some resolutions. We’ll keep a record of these at the front of our books/blogs.
  • Relay my vision of what makes a ‘good man’. (I teach in a boys’ school)
  • Present to them, in a form that will make it accessible, my updated pedagogy “This is what I care about in learning, this is why I care about it, this is what it will look like in the classroom, and this is how its success (or otherwise) will be measured.” I’ll be asking for their critique of this. (This will establish right from the start that I think about their learning and that what we do happens for a reason.)
  • Replace talk of rules with talk of relationship and responsibility.
  • Write or call home within the first week with an observation of something positive
  • Start the learning programme quickly, embarking on challenging work.
  • Select three specific areas for new innovation and development, and commit, to the students, to fully engaging with these.
  • Explicity commit to doing my best, to being open to criticism and (therefore) learning and to listening at least as much as I talk.