Surviving your first school placement – the dos and the don’ts

student teacher taking a classStarting your first placement can be really daunting. It’s a new workplace with new people and of course you want to make a good impression! From my own experience in a school, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you make a great first impression.

Do:

  • Contact your placement provider in advance – this shows your eagerness to start and also gives you a chance to ask any questions before the first day such as what time they’d like you to arrive or if there’s a dress code.
  • Arrive early – this is a really important one! Definitely make sure that you arrive by the time you agreed with your placement provider. One thing to keep in mind is that everyone arrives early on the first day, but to keep up that good first impression it’s a good idea to be early everyday.
  • Work out your travel route in advance – it’s a good idea to test your travel route in advance so you know where you’re going. It’s best to do a test run at the same time of day that you’d normally travel to placement because traffic can vary at different times of the day and this will give you a pretty accurate idea of how long it takes to get there.
  • Look at your placement provider’s website before starting – this can help you get a feel for the values and ethos of the institution. Also the website may have the names/pictures of staff which can help you learn some key names before starting.
  • Have a friendly manner – make sure to smile and say hello to people whether it’s to the reception staff or children in the corridor as this makes you seem approachable.
  • Get involved – do offer to help out where you can. It might be doing some photocopying, making coffees or helping with an after school club.
  • Read up on key policies – chances are that you’ll be expected to read at least one policy before you start (for example: fire policy, GDPR policy etc.) and it’s important that you’ve read these so you know what your placement provider expects of you.
  • Organise your folder before day 1 – have a folder ready and set up before your first day. Your course might require you to have it set up in a certain way and it’s so much easier to have your organisation system in place from day one!
  • Keep paperwork up to date as you go – otherwise you’ll be left with a mountain of paperwork to complete just before the deadline! It’s much less stress doing it as you go along.
  • Meet staff outside of your department – it’s quite possible they could invite you to observe what they do, which will be great experience for you! It’s a good idea to swap names and email addresses if they’re expecting you to pop in, because from experience you never know when you might need to contact them!

Don’t:

  •  Don’t arrive too early e.g. 1 hour early – although arriving early makes you look punctual and professional, you don’t want to arrive so early that your placement provider isn’t ready for you.
  •  Don’t be late unless absolutely unavoidable – if you are running late make sure you let them know in advance, otherwise they may wonder if you’re coming or not. If you’re in a school for example then it’s a good idea to let reception know as well as your class teacher – the same goes for being ill. Give them as much notice as possible because they may have planned tasks for you to do (e.g. to collect photocopying) and if you’re not there someone else has to make time to do it instead.
  •  Don’t take time off ill unless you are genuinely ill – if you are genuinely ill and need to take time off then don’t worry! Everyone gets ill at some point and it’s better not to push yourself because you’ll only feel worse.
  • Don’t feel that you have to say yes to everything asked of you – if you need to say no to planning that extra Maths lesson because you have an assignment due soon or you have other commitments that is ok! You won’t get a black mark against your name by saying no to some things and it’s important to have a work-life balance as well as balancing your uni and placement work.
  •  Don’t forget to introduce yourself – when meeting someone new make sure you give your name and say that you’re on placement. It can be easy to feel the nerves in a brand new setting but you’ll come across as professional and polite when introducing yourself.
  •  Don’t worry if it takes you a while to learn everyone’s names – some people find learning names easy while others find it challenging. If it does take you a while to learn people’s names then don’t worry about it – you’ll get there eventually and as long as you’re trying that’s what matters.

Hopefully these tips have given you some food for thought about how to make the best impression on your placement. All that’s left to say now is good luck and enjoy the experience!


Thank you to Rebecca Tremaine, an Education student, for writing this.

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