Crucial 1st Days @ Your New School

How colleagues and admin perceive you during your first days at a new school can and will make the difference between a great year ahead and one that’s not at all what you hoped for.

In a way, you’re the ‘new kid on the block’ and you’ll be establishing a place in the neighborhood. Beyond smiling and introducing yourself to new colleagues, how do you go about becoming an accepted, contributing member of the faculty neighborhood?

The first (all-school) faculty meeting is a good place to start. The question is: Do you leap right in, expounding on all your great ideas, thus possibly contradicting teachers with already well-formed alliances? Or do you sit quietly, keeping your thoughts to yourself, leaving others to wonder? Neither extreme is advised.

You still don’t know who’s who, so jumping on the band wagon with a teacher or group, before you fully understand their position, could brand you as a nauseating admin cheerleader or a member of the ‘resistance.’ The best approach is take it slow, don’t step on any toes and avoid forming alliances, at least not yet. It’s hard to shake poor first impressions and switching horses mid-stream is not easy.

Considering the ideas of others and asking, in an encouraging manner, for clarification is a good first step. Letting other teachers know you are interested in what they have to say will encourage them to listen to your ideas, later, even if your ideas run contrary to theirs.

As days turn into weeks, you’ll have developed a good picture of the playing field and formed a few budding friendships. Now is the time to begin diplomatically introducing your opinions and ideas at faculty meetings and informal gatherings outside of classroom hours. Having an understanding of the opinions and motives of various groups and individuals will help you present your ideas in a way that is more palatable. At this point, if you contradict the ideas of others, they should be receptive because you have taken the time to listen and consider theirs.

Face it! You can’t please all the people all the time, and there’s a very real possibility you will sooner-or-later alienate someone or some group. Not everyone is receptive to ideas other than their own, and fragile egos are difficult to deal with. Passive-aggressive reactions and the poor-me attitude are the enemy of new ideas. They create a backwards, restraining motion rather than an atmosphere of moving forward with a synthesis of ideas. Such personalities are best politely acknowledged and then soundly ignored.

Above all, be friendly, get to know people on a personal basis, be a good listener, take it slow, and put your toe in well before you dive. Everyone likes and will listen to someone who they feel hears what they have to say. And who knows? You may even make some long-lasting friendships along your way to fitting in at a new school!

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion Board.

11 thoughts on “Crucial 1st Days @ Your New School

  1. Just had an old newbie start who did a runner after 10 days. She got off the plane whining and whines till she flew off on her broomstick. How not to behave! Good riddance.


  2. It takes time and effort to keep in touch with ‘home’ and the people you’ve known for a long time ‘back there’ but it is vital as you move around the world to keep those most important connections going strong as you branch out to new relationships. It gets harder the longer you are gone but it keeps you in touch with who you really are and when you go back you aren’t a stranger. Roots are important (even to and especially for) an international educator.


  3. Don’t go into a new school and begin gossiping and criticizing the way things are done. Get along with the head as they can make or break you. Be positive and professional.


  4. Ask yourself, is working and living internationally, so different to working at home. I doubt it, you start off with enthusiasm, think all is fantastic, then go through the what have I done, then it’s not what I thought, can’t wait to leave, is there something better out there, through to actually I can do this and it ain’t that bad. Study Bricks Curve and you’ll get the idea. In my opinion you’re very naive to think all be cosy and pleasant, life ain’t like that. Fight the big battles, don’t be the I ‘m better then them person, or the person who stands up the management team, they have seen it all, before and again long after you’ve flown to your next gig. Management too have their strings pulled and no matter what you might say.. they don’t listen.. they know nothing.. they are unsupportive… they should be sacked etc, so much goes on behind closed doors that teachers don’t know and aren’t savvy to.

    So spend a little time reflecting on the reason why you went international and be a good bunny.


  5. Don’t be an obnoxious know-it all and start off by throwing your weight around and being demanding. First perceptions are all important.


  6. Don’t begin every conversation with “ my last school we always….” Read the staff handbook and follow policy. Don’t whine like crazy the first few days because something isn’t perfect. Establish a respectful relationship with your new principal. Observe how things are done and you’ll fit in.


  7. One thing I’ve noticed returning home after 15 years in international schools is that my social skills have atrophied, because every time I’ve moved to a new place I’ve automatically had a ready-made social group – the international school community in the city I was living. Unless you’re in a truly international city like Hong Kong, you absolutely need your fellow teachers for social connections. It usually takes many years to form bonds with the locals and even other members of the expat community. So it is a terrible idea to alienate yourself from the people at your school, at least until you build up your support network and find your feet.


  8. Thanks for this article. I’ve landed in a school full of clicks and fragile egos. A lot of these teachers have been here for ever. Some have married local women and are now considered local hires. I’m picking up on the attitude that this is the way we’ve always done it and this is the way we plan to continue. Also, these clicks are very close knit and don’t seem open to new faces. We’ll see how it goes. This certainly is the “one big happy family” sales pitch the director gave me. My hunch is the new teachers will form a group and eventually we’ll get to know some of the others, at least I hope so.


  9. Yup just moved myself after 8 years at my old school. Forgot how hard it is to start from square one. My new school has a lot of long termers and a lot of cliques and a lot of shared experiences. It is tough. First few weeks are the toughest with listening and asking questions about peoples backgrounds being key. Slowly it should get better with either working together in a team or maybe socialising together from time to time


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