Class, there is a new person here today, and I hope that you’ll make her feel welcome. Please be patient with her if she doesn’t remember all of your names within the first lesson of the day. She’ll get there if you give her some time. And if she asks for directions because she doesn’t know her way around the school grounds yet, please be polite about showing her the way. And when she tries to initiate conversations so she can get to know you better, it really helps when you cooperate. She may look like she knows what she’s doing, but that’s only because it’s her job to make you feel comfortable and as though you’re in capable hands. You see, class, there is a new person here today, and that new person is . . . me.
Ah, your first day at a new school. The feeling never changes. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t, not even when you’re the teacher. Being a relief teacher means walking into new schools and getting straight into the job at hand. Even once you’ve been at a school several times, the fact that you’re in a new classroom each time and often in a new area of the school means that it takes a while to settle in. Of course, I’m sure this is the case when you’re new to any workplace, but the strange thing about relief teaching is that you are walking into a classroom with 20-30 little people who know how the school day runs much better than you do, and are expected to be the one leading them. It’s kind of backwards when you think about it. And my, do you get good at keeping calm and composed while you wing it. Then there are the parents that hover around the classroom in the morning, rightfully, to make sure that they can trust you. Sussing you out and watching how you interact with their children. When recess and lunch come along it’s a whole other situation. Here, in the staff room, is where you meet your co-workers, the other teachers of the school who have been there for years and can smell the fresh meat in the room. Thankfully, I’ve only ever been to welcoming schools, but it can still be very overwhelming when you’re the ‘new kid on the block’ – especially when you’re an adult. At the end of it all though, the nervous-excited feeling that presents itself at the beginning of each day is not all that bad. It’s actually quite refreshing – it makes you feel alive. And when you stumble out of the car upon arriving home at the end of the day with your hair all frizzy and stains on your clothes that came from who-knows-where and the sounds of ‘Miss T, Miss T’ echoing in your head, you can relax knowing that you earned your money today, and that the first day is always the hardest.