How to Prepare for Your First Day at School
I will never forget my first day before starting as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) back in 2002. For me, as I’m sure might be the case for you reading this, there was both a nervous apprehension of what to expect teamed and a growing excitement of what was to come. The nerves nearly won out. I remember blurting out to the TA in my classroom before I opened the door to my very first class…
“I’m not sure I’m ready for this!”
Being nervous before your first day is expected. It would be strange if you weren’t. But letting your nerves get the better of you, as they nearly did me, is definitely not what you want. For me, my instincts and teacher training kicked in when I saw the smiles of the children as they started filing into the classroom. Cue my growing excitement winning the day!
Mindful of how I felt, I wanted to share some top tips for how to prepare for that all important first day at school. Supporting yourself to practically, mentally and physically prepare yourself before your first day, means you will be in a much better position to use that excitable energy in a positive way and keep the nerves from overwhelming you.
1. Map out the day and prepare
At your first day at a new school, a lot can be up in the air but what you can always rely on is the subject(s) that you teach. Make sure you have all your lesson plans prepped the night before and organised ready to go for the next day. I would also find a previous lesson plan that you have done, maybe on your trainee teacher year, just in case something doesn’t go to plan, so you have backup activities ready to go. I would also recommend writing a bullet point list of all the lessons in the day and the key objectives you want to teach, so that the whole day is in your head before you go to sleep. Getting this down on paper will make it feel more manageable in your mind.
2. Make sure you're ready to go
Although your school will probably provide you with all the necessary materials before you start, schools are busy places and they may not have set you up on the staff portal, have your laptop ready or they may not have enough pens, papers and equipment. For ease of mind, bring extra pens, pencils, board pens and anything you need to carry out your lessons. I would also bring your home laptop and USB containing your lesson plans just in case your work computer is not ready. Finally, make sure you arrive to work in plenty of time so that you can ask your peers for any additional support, or so you have time for any last minute changes!
3. Check your timetable
If your school/college has sent you your timetable before starting your job, make sure you have a close look – and don’t be afraid to ask for it if it hasn’t come through. You may not be able to place where the buildings are yet, but you will be able to get an idea of if you need to move classroom halfway through the day or which block you might be based in. This is another reason to arrive to the school early - so you can work out where the buildings are located and focus more on delivering your lessons than school day logistics.
4. Look after your physical and mental health
We tell our students to look after their physical and mental health so often that we sometimes forget to take our own advice. If you are not a gym goer, having a long walk the day before your first day at school can help clear your head as well as pump the endorphins ready for the next day. Make sure you eat well the night before too. Cook your favourite dish that will give you plenty of nutrients for the day ahead. Finally, make sure you bring plenty of fruit or healthy snacks so you can keep your energy up all day.
5. Go to bed early
Working in education means you are used to early starts, but you cannot burn the candle at both ends! Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time and follow your normal nightly routine. Avoiding caffeine can also help you have a good, deep rest. Try and turn your phone off so that you avoid any blue light before going to bed. I always find reading a book sends me straight to sleep. If you have trouble switching off, don’t just lie in bed and wait for sleep, try getting up, changing scenery and doing something that is personally relaxing. You can then head back to bed after 20 minutes, rather than lying there frustrated for the same amount of time. Having a note book by your bed also helps to get those random thoughts out of your head! You will then skip out of bed the next day ready for your first of many early starts.
Hopefully these tips will help organise your mind ready to start teaching. However, all the preparation in the world can only help so far. With each milestone you will get more confident in your ability and the nerves will fuel your passion rather than hinder it. So good luck all, and take courage from my TA who smiled at me and gave me the following advice on my first day:
“You’ll be fine, and besides it’s too late now!”
Andy Taylor is a Senior Lecturer of Primary Education at the University of Worcester with 16 years’ experience as a class teacher under his belt. He is also the face of popular teaching mentor Twitter account ‘Mr T's NQT/ECT support’ where he shares what he has learnt over the years to support students, NQTs and ECTs as they navigate their early career.
Thinking about taking your first steps up the teaching career ladder? Visit the government’s free and easy to use Teaching Vacancies service where you can sign up for job alerts and stay up-to-date on the opportunities out there: teaching-vacancies.service.gov.uk/jobs
Check out @MrTs_NQTs on Twitter for advice on how to overcome challenges in early career development as well for student support for NQTs and ECTs as they navigate their early career.