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A Veteran Teacher’s Advice on Starting Over in a New School by Steve Levesque, RIMTA

Though I am a veteran teacher, I am entering this school year as a newbie (of course, pandemic teaching made us ALL feel like first-year teachers). I will be teaching at a new school after 15 years at my previous position. My knowledge of school policies, the cache I built with colleagues and students, and the comfort with my workspace are all gone.
Before starting the school year, I reviewed what I had learned from prior experience (and some mistakes) about starting anew. Perhaps those of you who are beginning teachers (or veterans beginning at a new school) can get a tip from this to make your transition as smooth as possible.

1. Get to know the secretaries and custodians. These folks are the lifeblood of the school, with intimate knowledge of the building and procedures. Many of them are also really cool people. Get to know them and appreciate them for the many thankless tasks they do; they will go above and beyond to help those in need, no matter how busy they are.

2. Get to know the building. Don’t confine yourself to the spaces you will frequent; tour the whole building…a lot. Not only will this help you feel like more of a part of the school community, but there will be students new to the school who will want to know where the art room or the athletic director’s office is. Try to be a resource for those in need.

3. Be yourself. New teachers have likely received lots of advice on how to start the school year; “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving,” was a popular one back in my day (I’m dating myself here). However, if you are not true to your own personality and core values, students will see through this facade and you will sabotage the credibility you are trying to build.

While I’m on this topic, you will see many strong relationships between students and faculty/staff. It’s easy to have some envy of the rapport seemingly everyone has with one another, and you may want to have that same rapport instantly. Don’t try to force the issue; everyone will soon see how awesome you are!

4. Be visible. Attend students’ games, concerts, etc. Chaperone events. Help with some extracurricular activities. You will become more immersed in the school community, and your students will know you care about them as people and not just math students. Moreover, seeing students in a different venue will give you a perspective that you may not get based solely on classroom interactions. However…

5. Don’t take on too much. It may be tempting to jump into every opportunity that presents itself. If getting involved in two activities is good, then getting involved in four must be twice as good, right? Maybe, maybe not. The workload at the beginning of the year may not seem overwhelming, but it does get tougher and you will get tired. You will need to have something in the tank for your students, and you will need to take time for yourself. There will always be opportunities to add to your plate throughout the year.

Do you have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them. Please add them to the “Comments” section.