Pretty much us. Every year.
The new school year is just around the corner and teachers and students alike are getting ready to tackle a new round of academic challenges. But before anyone can get to any of that, there is...the first day of school!
Here are five things you can do to make sure you start the year off on the right foot:
Ok, maybe not this early.
1. Get There Early
The first day of school is chaotic. Students are figuring out where they need to be, teachers are trying to do ten things at once, and the administrative staff are making sure nothing gets left undone. In other words, no one needs you showing up late, adding to the confusion or throwing off everyone else's schedules.
So don't just be on time. Instead, make sure to arrive at your school with enough time to introduce yourself, shake a few hands, and be shown to your seat before announcements and assemblies begin. Usually, this means being on campus, in the teacher's room, five to ten minutes before 8:00 am.
Make it a point to introduce yourself. Ahem. Sorry.
2. Announce Yourself
Whether it's your first day at a new school or your fifth year at the same school, there will be lots of people around who have no idea who you are. You can fix this in three short, easy steps:
First days are the same in every school. Even flight school, apparently.
3. Get Out of the Way
As stated above, the first day of school is chaotic. Generally, teachers and staff will want to accommodate you, but they will also be very pressed for time. Therefore, once you've introduced yourself and been shown to a desk, be prepared to wait a while.
If you seem to have some time, get out a textbook and study some Japanese or familiarize yourself with your schools' textbooks and routines. Request a seating chart of the teacher's room, and any logistical paperwork you may need (phone tree, school phone numbers, etc.)
If possible, and after checking with your lead teacher or vice-principal, take a walk around the school grounds. Learn where the classrooms are and which teachers head each class. Locate the specialty classrooms (like the art room and music room) and the library. These will be good places to interact with students later on, so it makes sense to learn where they are while you have some free time.
Whatever you do, be proactive in finding the tools and resources you may need in the months and weeks ahead.
Not pictured: teachers trying to figure out where they need to be.
4. Hurry Up
Be prepared for your point-of-contact person or the vice-principal to suddenly request your presence at an assembly or in a classroom. There will be an opening ceremony on the first day of school and you, along with every other new teacher, will be asked to briefly introduce yourself. However, we've said it twice now - the first day of school is chaotic. Teachers may not be sure when and where they need you to be until the very last minute.
Therefore, you should stay at or near your desk* and be ready to drop whatever it is your doing and accompany the staff to wherever they need you to be.
*The exception to this might be taking a walk around the school as per point 3. However, do not just leave your desk. As we said above, check in with the lead teacher or vice-principal just to make sure they don't need you elsewhere right then.
Our very best smile.
5. Keep Smiling
To be honest, we've had great first days and we've had not so great first days. There is chaos and there is confusion and it can be difficult to find anyone to tell you what's going on or to help you with anything you may need. And, frankly, it's understandable. After all, and sorry to be blunt, but, the day is not about you.
It is about getting the students into the right mindset and routine so that they can excel academically. It is about giving the teachers a chance to take stock of their charges and to make sure that they are prepared to do their best. It is about the staff making sure that all the gears are working smoothly so that the school can serve its purpose.
Your role is to support and help however you can. And, on the first day, the best thing you can do is smile, be friendly, and be patient. Later, you will be able to befriend all the students and all the teachers and show them the glory that is the English language. But for now, just smile.