In transition

Joining a new school

Moving on to a new job and a new school is exciting but is not without its challenges. Simon Dunford reflects on making the most of this period of transition.

Mixed emotions

As this academic year draws to a close, there are many teachers who are preparing to moving on to pastures new in the next term. This move can involve a complex mix of emotions: excitement about joining a new school, taking up a new role, moving to a new country, but it can also be a daunting, anxiety-building process. There are the logistics of maybe moving to a new city, new country, new accommodation. Packing up and sorting shipping to move your life somewhere new is no mean feat. Take it from someone who has made this move many times before, it will all get sorted; yes, it feels like it won’t and you will not be ready in time but, trust me, you will be ok!

“I discovered that a fresh start is a process. A fresh start is a journey – a journey that requires a plan”  Vivian Jokotade

There is also the excitement/anxiety of leaving a group of colleagues and friends that you know, to start all over again with a new group of people. Questions such as… What will my colleagues be like? Will I like them? Will they like me? Will I like the school? What about my social life? Will there be friends to make? Will there be things to do?

So many questions, so much that is unknown, but I think that this is part of the fun of international teaching and work: it is an adventure.

I still get the jitters everytime I start a new job! I love it – makes you feel alive. Camille Guaty

Here are some quick tips and ideas for helping you get settled in as quickly and successfully as possible.

To make a difference, take your time

When you get to your new school, take your time to settle in and get the feel of the new environment before seeking to influence change. Going in with all guns blazing and seeking to make your mark straight away is almost always a mistake.

Your experience and expertise is important. You may have just been appointed to a leadership role. You may quickly see things happening in the school that you don’t like, or think could be done better, or need changing. However, get to know your new environment first. I don’t mean be passive or disengaged, but be mindful that it will take time to fully understand your new context, the people, or the culture.

For your input, ideas and suggestions to be successful, you need to have a thorough understanding of the context and also need to have built some professional relationships with your new colleagues before supporting the drive forward. The exception here is anything to do with child protection and/or health and safety; in these cases, you must raise issues from day 1.

There is always anxiety when you start a new job, you’re the one who doesn’t know where the ketchup is.  Jon Stewart

“At my last school . . .”

Be aware if you find yourself saying ‘At my last school we . . . ‘ As you’ll probably know, there is nothing more irritating and yet it is so easy to do.

People will ask you about where you have come from, even ask what that school was like, but be careful to avoid implied criticism! Every school is totally different and what works in one school may not work in another. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take good practice, good resources and so on with you to implement in a new context; however, try to introduce them for their own merits and benefit rather than because they were ‘good in your last school’. What you don’t want is new colleagues thinking, “The new person is always banging on about what they did in their last school. Why don’t they just go back there if it was so great?”

Every single job is a new challenge. You are walking into a new set, a new character, creating a world and trying to get comfortable to do your best work.”  Felicia Day

Find time for a social life outside of school

Making friends and filling your social time can be daunting at any age but again, as with anything, take your time and find your feet first. From my own experience, the first few people that you meet and socialise with are quite often not the people that you hang around with later on and make longer-term connections with.

It seems obvious, but some things that can help you meet people are for example; opportunities to do the hobbies and sports that you enjoy in your new environment. However, you will be under pressure to prepare for school, especially in the first month or so. Finding time for you and meeting people who have similar interests and attitudes as yourself outside of school is so important. It is beneficial to have a mixture of friends with different interests and backgrounds. If you are only socialising with your colleagues, it is easy to slip into ‘work talk’ which can feel like you never actually get a break from school, which we all need.

Good luck in your new roles, everyone. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy your summer break!


Author and CEO of Dumond Education, Simon Dunford is an experienced educator with over 25 years’ experience in teaching, leadership and advisory roles in many countries and regions worldwide.

Simon’s latest book ‘The Brillance Imperative’ is available on Amazon.

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FEATURE IMAGE: by ooceey from Pixabay

Support Images: by Mohamed Hassan & Rosy from Pixabay