Tips for Teaching at a New School as a Department of 2 or More!

 Tips for Teaching at a New School as a Department of 2 or More!

These tips are if you are starting at a new school consisting of 2 or more teachers that teach the same subject as you. 

Whether you are a new teacher, or a veteran teacher, these tips will apply to you!

If you are starting at a new school where you will be the only teacher teaching your subject, then check out my blog post on Teaching at a New School as a Department of One!

Tips for Teaching at a New School as a Department of 2 or More!

Tips for Teaching at a School as a Department of 2 or More! How to work as a team, prioritize, and work effectively.

  1. Prioritize building a good relationship with all students on Day 1. 

    1. I’ve been the “new” teacher for a district 3 times. There will always be comparisons to whoever was the teacher before you. 

    2. Even though getting to know every student within a week can be daunting, it can be done! 

      1. TIP: Print those rosters with their faces, and study them each night! 

      2. TIP: Use name tags for the first week!

      3. TIP: Play a name game in Spanish the first day or two!

      4. TIP: Hand out an “All About Me” worksheet on the first day, to get to know students’ likes, interests, etc. 

        1. Collect them and read through them over the course of the first week to get to know them! 

        2. And then make comments to them, like “Hey Josh, I see you’re into theater, did you try out for the fall play?”

      5. TIP: Be observant! Are there a bunch of students wearing jerseys? Wearing a concert t-shirt?

        1. Ask what position they play!

        2. Ask if they went to that concert recently, or if that artist is their absolute fave!

  1. Ask the teachers in your department for a general idea of what the previous teacher taught. 

    1. If they just throw a bunch of binders at you and say “they taught this”, ask them to help you with the pacing of units, what was taught first, etc.

    2. If someone else teaches the exact class you will, great! Lean on them for guidance, and work on a plan to try to “split the work” for lesson planning.

    3. If fellow staff have no idea what was taught…run!

      1. That’s a huge red flag. Find out from admin if indeed the department didn’t work as a “team”, and get that sorted out asap for you to start the year, working together.

      2. That likely won’t help with anything immediately so:

        1. Start off with your best attempt of a review unit

        2. Find out what students’ gaps are

        3. Ask the teacher who teaches the level below you, what they taught students last year, so you have an idea of what students learned.

  1. Have a lesson plan template

    1. TIP: Create a lesson plan template that makes sense to you.

      1. Yes, your admin might require you to turn in lesson plans weekly, because essentially…they don’t trust you as a professional, BUT

      2. You still should be creating lesson plans for yourself to stay organized regardless!

  1. Reflect daily on your lessons

    1. TIP: Each day, within your lesson plans, jot down 2-3 sentences of what went well/badly, being specific about:

      1. How you explained directions to the first class and it went badly, and how you did a better job the next class.

      2. If the activity took more/less time than you anticipated

      3. What you would do differently in the future

  1. You don’t need to do it all.

    1. TIP: If they ask you to continue the club the previous teacher led, and you’re feeling swamped, say “Maybe next year, but right now my focus is on student learning”. How can they argue with that?

    2. TIP: The previous teacher was also a coach?

      1. Again, NOPE! Especially if you have no interest in coaching that sport!

    3. TIP: Basically, don’t feel obligated to be any sort of advisor, committee leader, before/after school study hall supervisor, etc. if you don’t feel comfortable with it

  1. Don’t do it all alone. 

    1. I know you’re fully capable of creating a worksheet or a review game, but sometimes there’s just not enough time!

      1. TIP: Ask the teachers in your department if they have resources they could share

      2. TIP: If you teach Spanish 2 and someone else in the department does, divide the work of lesson planning, to help each other out!

      3. TIP: Join a Facebook group where teachers are sharing resources (often free ones!) 

      4. TIP: Go to & browse for resources you need!

        1. Add resources to your Wishlist, and follow those stores so you get notified when their store is on sale!

        2. Get the resources on your Wishlist when there’s a site-wide sale! There’s usually 1 sale every 2-4 months, depending on the time of year!

    2. TIP: Collaborate with coworkers (in and outside of your department) on what classroom management strategies they use in their classes!

    3. TIP: Whether the school assigns you a mentor or not, become buddies with your next door coworkers. They can help you with:

      1. Sudden tech issues that might be a simple fix 

      2. Reminding you about upcoming meetings

      3. Keeping your sanity! Sometimes I’d go a whole day without talking to a real adult, because my room was in a basement and the other 2 teachers never came out of their classes. #lonely

  2. Set Boundaries 

    1. Set boundaries such as:

      1. Not allowing coworkers to bother you during your prep. Have an exit strategy or a few prepared sentences to get them to leave, so you can work.

      2. Keeping department meetings productive

        1. Establish norms and expectations to stay on topic

          1. Department meetings should not be venting time, complaining, etc. 

          2. If things feel unproductive, have some prepared “go-to” statements to get the group back on track.

          3. If statements like that aren’t getting the group on task, then it might be time for the group to do a deep-dive into reading about a successful PLC! I’ve been a part of an amazing PLC school, and then another school that “did PLC”. One was clearly more effective than the other! 

      3. Not allowing teachers who teach the same thing as you, to rely on you for all of the lesson plans.

        1.  It not only causes burnout on you, but animosity towards you coworker. 

        2. If this is happening, address it right away! 

      4. Let fellow coworkers know of any other boundaries you have such as:

        1. Not answering emails from your phone

        2. Not looking at emails once you leave work

        3. Leaving work at contract time. 

        4. Not allowing students to bother you during your lunch and your prep.

        5. When my door is shut, it means I don’t want to be interrupted unless it’s necessary

  1. Make a point to get to know everyone in your department

    1. When teachers invite you to eat lunch in their room, or the lounge (if there is one!), take them up on that!

      1. Or if nobody initiates that, invite them to have lunch in your room, even if it’s just 1 day a week!

    2. Plan a little outing for appetizers/drinks once a month!

    3. Celebrate birthdays by doing something small, like getting together at lunch to have a cupcake!

    4. Bring in donuts to chat with each other before school every now and then!

I hope you have a great first year at your new school!

I’d love to hear back from you on what tips you’re going to incorporate, and if you have any other ideas!

You may also be interested in reading Teaching at a New School as a Department of One!

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