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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Just Got a Teaching Job... Now What?!- Touring Your New School

I'm a coordinator of a high school biology camp this summer. Basically, my boss and one other girl run it with me- and both of them needed to be gone for the first two days of this session. The first day was yesterday, and I was really nervous that I'd forget something, or that it wouldn't go well.

What actually happened? For the first 3 days, we finished everything on the schedule and more in the alotted time. We were actually supposed to come back in the evening, too, and didn't have to either of the 1st 2 days because we got it all done early.

I have been somewhat stressed about work this summer and feeling a little squeezed out... made me feel good that I can still run the program- and better than it's been running all summer!

Glad to get time for blogging tonight, though! Continuing with...

Thanks for your positive feedback, guys- part of why I started blogging is because I felt like I was *lost* getting my first classroom ready!

Before you go in to school...
  • See if you can find a Parent Handbook on the school's website. If this isn't on the website, ask about one when you visit the school. (Some may have a teacher handbook, which is even better- but most schools have a parent handbook and it will answer a lot of your questions!)
  • Pull up the school calendar and mark those dates down now.
  • Look at the supply list. What will kids be coming to school with? (Hopefully!)
  • Look for information about the curriculum and programs they use, under links for teachers, links for parents, book information, etc. Even if you're like me and you don't get curriculum until August or later, if you know your reading and math series, you can probably find out more about it online before the year starts!

Your first visit to the school...

Hopefully, not too long after being hired, you'll get a chance to get a tour of your school, even if you can't start setting up your room yet. My principal gave a tour to all the new hires last year, but you could also just as easily walk around with another teacher and let them give you a tour!

The best thing about a school tour is that just walking by things will remind the other person of important things to tell you. There are a million questions you could ask, but here are some things to consider asking during the tour.
  • Staff bathrooms
    • 'Nuff said.
  • Student bathrooms
    • While no kids are there, might not be a bad idea to walk in and look around so you know what to talk about when you teach bathroom procedures.
    • Will my kids need hall passes?
  • Staff lounge
    • What are the 'rules' of the fridge, etc.?
    • Is there a social committee? Are there dues?
    • What's the local union/ association? Do I have to join? Even if I don't "have" to, is it generally recommended? Will other teachers pressure me to to do it?
    • (Joining a union- totally your choice. It can be costly, but nice to have the liability insurance and support in case of a problem. You also may or may not agree with how they publicly and politically defend teachers. Regardless of whether you want to- in some schools, it is expected that you will join, and you might be treated badly by other teachers if you don't join- so just ask what the staff climate is like before you decline membership. For your first year especially, sometimes it's best not to rock the boat.)
  • Mailboxes
    • Where are they? (Usually staff lounge or main office.)
    • Check if your box is the one above or below your name. (Sounds silly, but I know someone who kept stealing someone else's mail by mistake the first week. Oops.)
  •  Main Office
    • Meet the secretaries. Go ahead and begin worshiping. These people will save your life more than once.
    • Are there supplies in here I can use? Which ones?
    • Are there forms in here I will need to use? Where are they?
    • Where can I leave a note or form for the principal?
    • What other administrative people are there and what are their responsibilities?
  •  Teacher Supply Room/ Copy Room
    • What do I do if a copier jams?
    • Are there any rules for copies/ laminating- when/ how much?
    • Do I have a copy code?
    • Are there copy room volunteers, or can I have parents copy for me?
    • Are there specific guidelines to follow for any of the copiers? (Most places I've been, a Rizzo is only used when you are making 20 or more copies.)
    • Will I need to bring my own paper?
    • What other supplies are in here for me? (Look out for big guillotine cutters, die-cut machines, those binding machines, etc.)
  • IT Center, Tech Person's Office, and/or Computer Lab
    •  This won't always be something you have. In my current school, we have a tech guy. In my last school, one of the teachers was our "tech rep" on the side. Either way, ask...
    • Who's in charge of technology stuff?
    • What technology will I have in my room? Interactive whiteboard? Document camera? Overhead projector? Teacher computer? Student computers? iPads or iPods?
    • What technology is available outside my room? Is there a schedule for the computer lab/ computer cart/ iPad cart/ whatever they have?
  •  Specials rooms and the library
    • Apparently there are schools that don't have these- but around here, having kids go to music, art, gym, and library once a week is the norm. (Thank goodness.)
    • What specials are there? How many times do kids go to each special each week?
    • Do I have to stay and supervise/ teach, or is it prep time for me?
    • How do teachers go about checking out materials in the library/ media center? Are there any special materials just for teachers?
    • About when will the specials schedule be decided? (In my school, this happens laaate- very shortly before the year starts.)
  • Entrances and exits
    • Where will students come in?
    • Where will I park/ come in?
    • Where will students exit...
      • for the bus?
      • for walking?
      • for riding in cars?
      • for going to an after-school program?
    •  Will I take them there, or dismiss them from my door?
    • Are parents/ visitors only allowed in one door? (Most places, they'll need to check in at the office whenever coming to school.)
    • Where do kids go in/ out from recess? (Will I have recess duty?)
  •  Special education
    • Where is the SpEd room? Is it push-in, or pull-out?
    • Is there an ESL/ ENL program? How is it run?
    • Is there a Title I program, Reading Recovery, etc.?
  • Other areas of storage
    • Are there any other school resources or places I should know about? (Large Group Instruction room, courtyard or nature center, leveled library, teacher video library, grade level storage closet, etc.)
  •  Cafeteria
    • What are kids' options?
    • How do I place the attendance and lunch order each morning?
    • Do kids have lunch cards or lunch numbers they need to know? (I put lunch numbers on a nametag that kids wear the first couple of days, or until they memorize it!)
    • Will I have lunch duty? (Or recess, or before/after school, or any other duty?)
    • What's the procedure for allergy students? (Allergy table, special rules, etc.)
  •   Nurse's Office
    • Is there a form to send with students?
    • Is there a full-time nurse?
    • Do I need to send students to the nurse for ANYTHING, or can I just give them a band-aid in the room if it's very minor? (Some schools like to have students actually go to the nurse for every tiny thing. A little annoying, but it's a little better legally, I guess.)
  • Custodian's Office/ Closet/ Maintenance Center
    • Who's in charge?
    • Who will clean up my room?
    • How can I start kissing up I mean, get in touch with them?
    • When will I get keys to my room/ building? (If you do- in my school, we get an ID card that works as a key in the building, but not every school allows access.) 
  • Your Classroom
    • How many other teachers are there at my grade level? Are we close to each other?
    • How much do the teachers in my grade level work together, especially to plan?
    • About how many students will I have? Any idea yet?
    • What furniture, manipulatives, and supplies will be provided?
    • When can I get my key and start working on my room?
    • Note the closest staff bathroom, student bathrooms, door, parking area, water fountains, etc.
Keep in mind that these are not at all everything you need to know- just a starting point for the first school tour! When my principal gave a tour, she actually covered a lot of this before I even had to ask.

Don't worry- you'll find out a lot more as you go along. But on your school tour, smile a lot, sound enthusiastic, and don't be afraid to ask questions as they come up. The closer it is to the school year, the busier your administrators will become- so ask early instead of bugging them later!

Three wonderful things-

1.   My awesome Friday Find of a Lucy Calkins writing set being given away? I just found out how much those things go for. Holy COW.

2.   I got to try out an iPad last Spring, and nearly cried when I had to give it back. Well, our school applied for a monster technology grant, and got it- and I just found out I can go in to school and pick up my classroom iPad on Thursday! WOOHOO! App suggestions welcome :)

3. Getting out early last night meant that I got to go shopping, and I found some GREAT things to send along with a hat for Kenton. I have a few other friends joining in, but if you haven't yet, it's not too late to sign up and help brighten the day of a little boy with leukemia (and his family!)


  1. That is a very thorough list!! Excellent post, as usual! I will be forwarding this along to a newbie teacher from my grad program. :)

    Second Grade Sparkle

  2. Thank you for posting this. I truly appreciate it as I'm a newbie teacher!

    Miss V's Busy Bees

  3. Great tips! Lucy is expensive, so you scored big time!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  4. I love these posts! Since I started at my current school in the middle of March, I never got a chance to do all of these important things. And even though I am returning to the same school and classroom this fall, these are all great things to keep in mind! Thanks =)

    Congrats on your iPad! (Soo jealous!)

    I'm having a linky party!
    The Resource Room Teacher

  5. Wow! Thank you so much for hosting this series! My new teacher inservice starts on Monday! Thanks for all the tips!
    Teaching in Valley

  6. This is a great post. I am pinning it, in case I have a student teacher. They would totally benefit from reading this.


  7. excellent advice!!! thanks for sharing :)

    Always A Lesson

  8. I have been teaching for 18 years and I never would have expected to need a list like this. However, I was so burnt out that I decided I needed a change, so I am moving from middle school to elementary school and your post makes me think about all the little things I need to ask!

    I am new to this blogging thing, so I would love it you could check out my new blog and let me know what you think!

  9. Really grateful for this list! I'm printing it out now for my school visit tomorrow and Friday! I appreciate you

    -Ashlee B


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