I’ve come across a couple of instances recently where a website has great resources, but either people don’t know about them, or don’t know where to find them even if they do. For example, apparently the Department for Education website has some brilliant resources for teaching children with complex needs, but they’re all but impossible to find. So that got me thinking: how will teachers starting in your school next term fare when it comes to accessing ICT-related information? Here are some ideas I’ve had, which I hope may be useful. They do not have to apply only to ICT.
Well, the new term -- indeed, school year -- has started or is about to start, so you may think it is somewhat premature to be thinking about Christmas already!
However, in my experience the autumn (Fall) term is the toughest of the lot, and the final few weeks can be purgatory.
So you have landed that great ed tech-related job -- but getting it was the easy part. What do you do next, and how do you get off to the best start? Here are 10 useful tips.
1. The classic mistake made by many newcomers to a school is to go in like a bull in a china shop. Brimming with ideas, they launch themselves into their first meeting with suggestion after suggestion after suggestion -- only to be told: "Yes, we tried that".
The very first thing you have to do is research. Find out from the people who are already there what needs to be done. Walk around and make a note of what's going on. Then you'll be in a much better position to make changes.
2. Some of this groundwork can be undertaken before you start. Perhaps you can arrange to spend a day in the school with the person whose job you're taking over. Make sure you think carefully about the questions you want to ask before you get there.
3. Politics is a dirty word, but it's also a reality. Make sure you find out pretty quickly who has the ear of the Principal, and who doesn't. The bottom line is that if you want to get things done quickly, then to some extent you have to make sure you influence the right people.
4. Nobody likes a smart alec who is going to turn the place upside down straight away (see point #1). But people will be expecting you to do a little more than tread water. So look for small but significant changes you can make. In fact, subtle changes are often the most effective. For example, installing a new computer in the staffroom, or giving the existing one a spring clean so that it runs faster -- but without saying a word to anybody -- can be incredibly effective.
5. Develop a house style. We hear a lot about the paperless office but everybody knows it's a pipe dream. But if you have to use paper, make it distinctive. Why not run a competition for the kids to see who comes up with the best departmental logo, with a $25 book token as the prize? Then create a letterhead using the logo, and with your school contact details on, for use on all your communications. (If the school has a rule that letters have to be sent on official headed paper, then perhaps you could create compliments slips instead, and/or use your letterhead internally only, for notices and notes to your co-workers.)
6. Under-promise and over-deliver.
7. Adopt the highest standards of dress.
8. Create your elevator pitch: something you can say in 30 seconds that will encapsulate your aims and what you've achieved in the last two months.
9. Be open and amenable.
10. Be honest.
You'll notice that there's nothing here about technology. That's because I'm assuming you know your stuff. What I've done here is to list a few generic points that will stand you in good stead whatever the nature of the job itself.
Look out for a great series on making a good impression, by Alison Skymes. Also, a new series by yours truly, which will be announced in Computers in Classrooms, the free newsletter.