So you've embarked on the process of moving to a new school. It may be because of a better job opportunity, you needed a change, or perhaps you just weren't the best teacher you could be at your previous school. I can say I have moved schools for all three of these reasons and thankfully I met great people along the way. But, there is one thing I can report, change isn't easy, and no matter how much you wish for the experience to go smoothly, there will always be a few hiccups along the way.
Thankfully most schools have similarities, but there are always a fair few differences. I've written this blog post to help you if you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to ask when making the change to a new school. Here are some things I've learned along the way that assisted me in making the last few job changes that bit more relaxed, I hope they help you too.
New School Tip 1
If you get hired early on, my suggestion is to see if you can get in touch with a teacher you will be working closely with at your new school. This can help alleviate a lot of stresses and make you feel like you've got a bit more control of the situation. Alternatively, you can organise to meet with one of the leaders in senior management and hit them up with any urgent questions you need to be answered.
New School Tip 2
Your school will probably hold an orientation day. Be prepared for information overload. Make sure you bring a notepad, pen, water bottle and just in case, snacks. Everything's better with snacks! Usually, orientation involves a lot of listening and receiving handouts such as the staff handbook, policies and contact lists. As well, you'll often get your staff ID, school laptop and login details. Don't fret if you don't get time to ask any burning question you may have on your mind. I have found the best time to ask specific questions is when you are in your department or with your grade partner. (Can you tell I've worked a lot at K-12 schools, where I've heard more information about the senior school than the junior school!)
New School Tip 3
When moving to a new school, there are so many unknowns. You have no control over this. Focus on things you do have control over. Pack up your old classroom and organise your belongings so they can be easily moved and unpacked at your new school. Organise a planner, to-do list and prepare displays you know you will be able to use so you don’t have those things hanging over your head once you start work. Most of all, take some time out for self-care. It is important that you begin at your new workplace fresh and ready to work hard!
Those are my three big nuggets of advice. Below I have put together several questions you may wish to ask during those few days you have before the students start.
General Administration Questions
Where can I access the school's policies? (Most schools have these accessible on the school's network)
What is the behaviour management policy? (Especially, if you have a particular approach you have become familiar with at your previous school)
Who is the best person to speak to if I have any significant issues I need to discuss whether professionally or personally?
If I am unwell and unable to work who should I contact?
What am I expected to leave for a relief teacher? For example, you may be expected to have a casual relief folder or detailed lesson notes.
What time am I expected to be at work and until what time?
What are the start time and finish time for the students?
When are staff meetings held and how frequently?
What is the school song or school prayer? (See if you can get a copy of this!)
What time does each lesson begin?
When do the bells go for recess and lunch?
Can I please get a copy of my timetable? (You may be given a template or guide to create your own)
How many Literacy and Maths lessons must I teach each week? (Some schools have varying expectation particularly independent schools)
What lessons do students have specialist teachers?
Do you have a term timetable? If so, where can I access it?
Do I walk the students to specialist lessons, or does the specialist teacher collect them?
What standardised tests am I expected to complete at the beginning of the year? (You may wish to ask throughout the year.)
How often do you have school assemblies? Or Chapel? (depending on the school)
How do I complete the school attendance and by what times do I need to complete roll call?
What do the different bells sound like for a fire evacuation or lockdown procedure?
Where is the evacuation meeting point? What do I need to bring? Such as a checked off class list.
Where do I find information regarding any student with medical alerts?
If a student is extremely unwell in my classroom, what is the expectation? (The first step may be to send the student to the school nurse or send to the reception. Each school varies.)
If I have a student who is at academic risk who do I need to contact? (Most schools nowadays have a first point of class for students at risk or in need of enrichment.)
General Classroom Questions
Are there any school-wide programs that must be implemented? For example Spelling programs
Is there a class budget for classroom resources?
If there is a class budget, how do I go about organising purchases or being reimbursed for purchases made?
Does the school have any subscriptions that I can access?
Where do we keep the term planners for each subject? Do I hand my term overviews or programs to a specific person in management?
Do you have a system where I need to record students assessment results?
Can I access my classes' previous reports?
How do I contact maintenance if there is an issue in my classroom or I need assistance?
Who do I contact if I need technical support?
What communal rooms/spaces do I need to book in advance and who do I contact?
Parent Communication Questions
When do you have Parent Information Night and are there particular expectations on the night?
Which term are the first parent meetings held?
What are the expectations regarding parent communication? (Do they do weekly emails? Or fortnightly newsletters?)
Where do I record any communication made between parents regarding their child's learning? (This can be helpful too to access any communication that may have been made with other teachers in the past).
What are the expectations regarding parent helpers in the classroom?
On Playground Duty Questions
Where are the different locations for playground duty? (particularly my allocated duties)
What is the protocol if there is an incident on the playground? Incident report? Send to the nurse or the sickbay?
What are we expected to wear on playground duty? Hi-vis vest? A hat? Duty bag?
I hope some of the questions above will be helpful to you and make the transition to your new school a whole lot easier. As daunting as it can be starting in a new school, the experiences you'll have and the people you will meet will make the change worthwhile. And, if it doesn't… there is always the opportunity to grow as an educator in a new environment.
I feel I should say, in the last decade, I've moved six times to schools within my home State, Interstate and Overseas. There were a couple of schools I worked at that weren't the best fit for me, and I wanted to experience better opportunities. Thankfully, I took a risk and each time it was the best for me at that moment. So, if you are thinking about moving schools and hesitating because of all the 'what ifs', I say… take a leap of faith, whether it's now or later down the track.
If you're reading this and you are a first-year teacher, Our First Year Survival Guide includes essential classroom checklists, advice, tips and strategies when starting your career as a teacher. The perfect place to get off to a successful start.
If you are a seasoned teacher, you might like to read our Classroom Setup Guide. It provides information about everything you need to consider when setting up a learning environment for your students.
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