Like other firsts in my life, my first day as a teacher in my own secondary school classroom had me feeling excited and nervous in equal measure. However, I tried not to worry too much and told myself that even the most seasoned teachers feel apprehensive about meeting new students at the beginning of each school year.
For me, preparation is crucial. I spent a few days towards the end of the summer holidays decorating my classroom, developing resources and planning my first week of lessons.
Forward planning gives me a sense of confidence and, in my opinion, is the key to success.
In my local authority, we are given an in-service training and information session at the start of each new term. My first impressions were really positive and, as a former pupil of the school, it was a very welcoming experience for me. It was warming to see so many familiar faces which helped to settle the new job jitters.
On the first day of term before the start of each lesson I would take a deep breath, look around my newly decorated classroom, double-check my lesson plans, and remind myself of everything I’d done to get to where I was standing. It was time to get the year off to a successful start!
My advice for day one:
- Arrive early to welcome your pupils with a smiling face. They too are nervous about starting a new school year and seeing a happy face can really make them feel more relaxed about their new experience.
- Welcome pupils into your classroom, inviting them to take a seat until you establish an effective seating plan for them.
- Have some ice breaker activities planned. For secondary school level, consider creating a class dictionary. Students can write a three-part definition of themselves that includes physical characteristics, personality traits, and favourite hobbies or interests. As the teacher you should also get involved and share some information about yourself with your pupils. This will help to make you more approachable and build rapport with your pupils.
- Explain classroom expectations. Present the most important classroom routines in a positive way. Explain, discuss and give your pupils a chance to develop their own set of classroom rules. Remember, they won’t learn it all in a day. So, continue to emphasise and practise classroom routines for the first few weeks.
- Deal promptly with behavioural problems, applying sanctions where necessary and following the school discipline procedures that are in place.
- Generate interest and enthusiasm by hinting at exciting new topics you plan to cover in the coming weeks.
- Take students on a tour of your classroom – especially useful if yours is a practical subject! Explain what is in all the cabinets and drawers. Show them what is accessible and what is off limits.
- Lastly, be yourself! Let your passion and enthusiasm for your subject shine through. You must be fully committed to making a difference to the lives of young people. Don’t be afraid to try new things to promote pupil learning and improve pupil experience.
If your first day activities involve all of your students in ways that allow them to be successful, you’ll be sure to make a good first impression. You will be seen as a caring, organised leader who is focused on creating a stimulating and cooperative environment.