I had to remember when the staff gathering times were. These are different in every school in terms of how many, where and what time they take place each week. I'll need a few more weeks before this becomes routine. But these were happy and calm experiences that made me feel like I was a member of the community (a completely flummoxed member of the community, but a member, none-the-less!).
I spent a good few minutes after each break in a panic, thinking I'd forgotten a playground duty. And then when I was on, the questions started. Where is my visivest and first aid bag? Where are the boundaries? What can the students do here? What is unacceptable? Where is the microphone? What do I have to say to these bright-eyed young people that will set them about their day? Why are visivests so damn unattractive? But I was rewarded by a Kindergarten student demonstrating a newly-discovered skill (She can whistle!), by a Year 1 student demonstrating persuasive powers ("No. No! That bell means we can keep playing, Mrs Cole!" They lost the argument.) and by the joy that comes from watching little people learning how to play together.
I had to figure out and 'nail down' in my brain the layout of my new school. I walked up and down hallways, trying to recall which teacher was in which classroom. I noted where the toilets were, what each store-room contained and walked the perimeter of the building. I got lost (not sure why - the school's layout is simplicity itself!). I locked myself out a few times. I even forgot where my office was once-or-twice. But after five days, I'm feeling more confident that I could turn left or right at the end of the main hallway without hesitation to find any classroom at all.
I had to get to know over two-dozen new workmates, and more than three hundred children, and try to recall their names as I saw and spoke to them. How fortunate that my new colleagues are a fabulous, patient, calm, helpful bunch of professionals, with a collective sense-of-humour! And the students have taken to coming up and introducing themselves to me, which makes for some wonderful conversations as I learn about their siblings, their hobbies and the things about the school that they love the most. Everyone has been warned that I'll have to ask their names again next week. I hope they think that's endearing.
I haven't even scratched the surface here.
There's my compulsion to wear (or bring) a pair of comfortable shoes; the day I forgot a cardigan and shivered all day; the morning I had to drive home to get my school key; the inordinate time it took me to figure out how to use a photocopier; the page and pages of To Do lists I compose every evening; the day I looked in my lunch bag and saw a shrivelled carrot and dry piece of ham - yum; the bladder control I developed in just three days; and that terrific moment I remembered how much I love singing and dancing with Year 1.
Yes - lots to remember as a newbie.
So--not that I ever lost it--I have great empathy for all of you early career teachers out there, starting your first teaching gig, for all of those experienced teachers and Principals and Assistant Principals starting in new schools, and for those educators who are coming back to school communities after time away. It's important that we give ourselves time to settle in, and that we're patient with ourselves when we make mistakes.
That first week was a doozie! But I'll be back next week. I'm back where I belong.