The first day of school for kindergartners, sixth-graders, high school freshmen, and any student who has changed schools involves a million questions. What should I wear? Will I know anyone? Who will I sit next to in class? Who will I sit with at lunch? Will my teacher like me? Will my classmates like me?
The first day of school is no different for new teachers, whether they are brand new like kindergartners or have just moved to a different school. Here are some tips for what to expect and do before and on your first day:
Email your principal before school begins for expectations and a schedule.
Principals often send out pre-planning agendas before teachers return. Usually, these agendas arrive via school email (unless your principal is old-school and sends them via USPS to your home address). If you are new, your school email address may not yet be set up.
If you haven’t received some sort of information about pre-planning from your principal and there are fewer than five business days before pre-planning begins, email him or her to request an agenda and inquire about dress code. Most pre-planning days and school-level meetings allow casual dress for ease of post-summer cleaning and classroom setup, but you don’t want to be the teacher who shows up in shorts when jeans are the most casual the principal allows.
If you are new to a district, your first day may be before the other teachers return.
These pre-days, specifically planned for teachers who are new to a district, are your first opportunity to meet important personnel such as the superintendent, board members, human resources managers, and academic directors and officers. Make a good impression by dressing professionally. (But also dress in layers as room temperature can be somewhat unpredictable.)
Once you arrive, find the other new hires for your school and make acquaintances.
These fellow new hires will give you someone to sit with when you get to the school building. You don’t have to keep these new acquaintances as friends once you have found your niche at your school, but you never know when one might become your best school friend.
The first day of pre-planning at the school will likely mean attending your first faculty meeting.
These meetings must take place somewhere all staff members can fit, so the cafeteria or media center are likely places. As a result, seating is often table-centered. If your school provides a welcome back breakfast, be sure to get there right on time. This is an opportunity to learn who the early-birds are and feel out the school culture. If you met someone at a new hire meeting, you can sit together. Other seating options include sitting with your grade-level or department peers. Feel free to switch seating spots after breakfast based on the culture you observe.
Make sure to take notes.
Massive amounts of information will be presented rather rapidly. Take notes on what is expected of you, bell schedules, teacher leaders’ names and responsibilities, counselors’ names and responsibilities, and, most importantly, where you can find any information that you may miss.
Be prepared for a public introduction.
Sometime during this listing of people and policies, your name will come up. You will be expected to stand as an administrator introduces you to the entire faculty. Try to smile and make eye contact with some colleagues. Unless you’re a complete extrovert, it will likely feel awkward. Just remember all of your coworkers have already had this experience.
Don’t hide in your room.
After the faculty meeting is dismissed, you will probably have some time to “plan.” Avoid holing up in your room. Use that first day to get to know people in your grade-level, department, or subject-area. They will be your lifeline this year for learning the curriculum and culture of your school. Talk to them, plan with them, and pick their brains. But, most importantly, go to lunch with them. Going to lunch is the best part of pre-planning, as you will likely be brown-bagging or eating cafeteria food for the next 180 work days.
The end of the first day will come before you know it.
Even if you only get a little accomplished in preparing your room, know you have begun the journey of finding your place. May it become your second home and your colleagues your second family.