Top tips for surviving your first year at a new school, from teacher Ben Vessey

Ben Vessey is Head of History, Politics and Law at Millfield School in Somerset.

There is no doubt that putting in the time in advance to meet people and to find out as much inside information about my new school as possible was extremely worthwhile. It certainly enabled me to ease into the job more easily.

However, no matter how much preparation one does, only going through the experience can really get things fully on track.

The personal touch

One lesson I did learn was the importance of keeping personal contact with those in my new department. It may seem obvious, but in reality it is easy to lose sight of this when consumed by the daily rush.

My department has 13 very busy people in it, and pinning them down can be tricky at times. The ‘to do’ list can sometimes dominate so much that continually communicating by email seems the easiest and quickest option. However, it is important to remember that there are some matters that need the personal touch. In the long run, talking something through face-to-face can save time, as misunderstandings potentially created by email do not arise so readily. Quick messages can easily be sent without proper reflection and the true meaning can be masked by plain black and white type. Maintaining human contact and discussing issues in person, therefore, is vital no matter how busy life is.

Tasks and deadlines

Another valuable exercise is to keep a record of any deadlines and tasks, which pop up through the year. Who initiates them? What is required? There are the obvious dates, such as exam entries, but each school has its own systems, which require specific paperwork at certain times of the year. If you are absolutely clear about when these tasks need doing, it will enable you to manage your time more effectively and to prepare in advance. If these tasks also require use of unfamiliar ICT procedures, you will have time to revise their use.

Work-life balance

Taking on a new role is challenging and invigorating and it becomes easier with time and experience. My parting shot would also be to stress the need to weave in time for your own interests, and not to let the world rest on your shoulders too much.