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Your first day at primary school!

This week’s #wednesdaywisdom comes from Beth over at @tenminuteteach. Beth is the KS2 leader of a large primary school in Wales. She has been a primary teacher since 2009 and shares her hints and tips for preparing for your first day in a primary school.

Your first day as an NQT after your INSET day will be in the classroom with your children. Sometimes you can feel a little thrown in at the deep end. This will be especially true if your NQT year is not in one of your placement schools. Even if it is in your placement school, you may be with a new class and have a whole new set of children to get to know. It can be a little overwhelming. Here I share some advice with you that I share with all new staff, but especially NQTs, when they’re starting.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, brush up on Safeguarding. All teachers are required to read the Government’s Keeping Children Safe in Education document and most schools will ask you to sign a document to say that you have read it. However, every school will have it’s own safeguarding policy and procedure. You need to run through the school’s policy, find out who the officers are. You will also need to familiarise yourself with the fire drill procedures and any emergency medical matters. Make sure that you take an empty file and make sure you take a copy of EVERYTHING. So handy to refer back to. Keep this to hand in your classroom for those days where your mind needs a refresher. This also gives you a fab excuse to create beautiful dividers and labels and it will also help you to evidence TS8 and Part Two of the teacher standards, providing that you can show you’re using it. During the break times, try and have a cuppa in the staff room - as daunting as it is, this is how rapport starts to build, and also it’s a key time to hydrate and fuel! You never know, you may even meet your teacher BFF whilst you’re there. It is tempting to stay in your classroom to sort “bits” before learning starts again, but a burnt-out teacher is no good to anyone and that first day will be exhausting. Take some time for you and take that break in the staff room with your new colleagues. It's best to do “Get to know activities” with you and children on that first day if you can. This will build those all-important relationships with your class that will be vital as you move through the year. Unless your school requires you to write in books on the first day spend the day without books, no marking for you on that hectic day! Get to know your children without asking for opinions first - after that initial meeting then discuss children with the previous teacher but make your own mind up that first day. Setting expectations is also important. Lay down what you’re about on that first day. If you’re calm and firm, let them know.

‘Elijah is sitting so calmly there, well done I love my class being calm’.

Considering this, if there is anything you’re not happy with don’t be afraid to stop and re-train. Routines are a good thing to talk about on that first week.

‘Let’s think about how we walk around the school - who can give me three adverbs - quietly, calmly, respectfully. Let’s try that. Hmmm I think we could be a little bit quieter, but I definitely think we did it respectfully and calmly.'

Also, follow the schools behaviour plan from day 1 - if you’re in a particularly hard school and you need to call someone to sort something out that isn’t breaking, that’s following school rules! The next important piece of advice: eat your lunch! Don’t bring tuna or egg for your first day! (My dad made me leftover fish pie for my lunch once....) – this will not make you friends! However, similarly to break time, you need to take the time to refuel and look after yourself. It’s also a further opportunity to make those bonds with your new colleagues. In a primary setting, you may find that parents what to investigate you as a new teacher and the guardian of the beloved child. Don’t let parents overwhelm you! Check if your school has a meet the teacher open class that first week. Some may want to speak to you separately but make sure all your children have gone safely back to their parents first ‘I would love to, let me make sure all my class have been picked up safely and then you will have my full attention’ On your way home, reflect on your day - write three things down when you get home – good, bad, way forward/continue then switch off.

Finally, make sure you sleep and recuperate – keep to a bedtime routine so that you are ready for your next day of teaching. Us veterans will all confirm that the first week back in September is exhausting – we all feel it, so take the advice and get your rest! Be selfish – you deserve it! You have joined an amazing profession, but one that is tiring and at times draining, look after yourself.

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