New term, new team, new start

Jane Basnett

Jane Basnett is head of MFL at Downe House, a successful Independent Girls School in Berkshire. She has been teaching for almost 20 years and is still learning. She achieved an MA in Digital Technology for Language Teaching at Nottingham University.

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Website: janeebasnett.blogspot.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Originally published on 7th September 2015

A new term is always an exciting time. It is not just a time for new pens, new mark books and a new set of classes. A break away from the chalkface has meant that teachers are relaxed, full of energy and bursting with new ideas. Holidays for teachers often give them a burst of energy, a renewed sense of purpose and a chance to get their creative juices flowing. Thus, it is not unknown to return to work after a long recess and find departments all over school starting new initiatives and putting some great ideas into place.

Sometimes, it may just work out that a new term also means a completely new team and thus a new term for some faculties has an even greater significance; it really is a new start. Some old, secure hands may have moved on to pastures new and you now have a chance to rebuild. This is Perestroika at its best. You may have a team coming to you with mixed backgrounds: some NQTs, a brand new head of department, a head of department with some prior experience, the variations are numerous. With any luck you will have played an important part in selecting this new team and they will have been chosen because you could see that they fitted the brief you had in mind. At the very least, they have been selected because you can see that they will eventually become an instrumental part of your team and will add value to it and will bring something positive to the students they teach.

In recruiting new staff these are the five key points that I would look for:

  • A passion for their subject - sharing this passion with the students they teach and enthusing them is what keeps students loving the subject and makes them want to continue their studies into further and higher education.
  • A passion for teaching - understanding pedagogy, a desire to continue learning about how to teach is what makes for great teachers.
  • An ability to communicate - with the team and the students. It is a key skill to be able to build a rapport with the students and the team.
  • An ability to self-reflect - without this vital skill it is impossible to give their best to the team of which they are a part and to the students they teach.
  • Flexibility - an ability to fit into the team, to change and to remould is important.


So, your new team is in place and a new term is looming. How do you ensure that the new start is a good one and gets your new team off to a flying start?

  • Pre-season training: Okay, not quite training, but at the end of the previous term, if you can, get your new team together. Allow the current members of your faculty to meet the new ones. Start to build the relationships and the team that is going to make your faculty successful. This meeting should not just be a jolly get-together but a more meaningful meeting with an agenda. Success does not just happen, it takes preparation.
  • Department Vision: At your first meeting, as outlined in number 1 above, really bring your new members of the faculty into the fold. Make them part of your team and include them in the department vision and let them know what the plans are. Better still, let them contribute to the vision and share their thoughts and past experiences as these may feed perfectly into the department's plans.
  • Reading lists: No need to give the new team your summer reading list, but do give the team a book that feeds perfectly into the department's (and/or the school's) long term goals. Try not to make it a heavy tome but one that is accessible and easy to read. With any luck they may have read it already then you know that your new recruit is perfect for your team!
  • Stay in touch: If the new members of your team use social media such as Twitter, then consider sending a timely, light-hearted message, or retweet a pertinent subject-based message that might be of interest to them. If they are not into using social media for CPD or building subject knowledge (something to work on later) then it is just as easy to copy a tweet into an email. Keeping lines of communication open once or twice over a long break keeps you all in touch in a positive way and makes sure your new colleague feels part of the team and fully understands the ethos of the department.
  • Targets: Once term starts and your new team member has begun to settle in, decide on some targets that tie in with the department's aims. Help your team member to achieve the goals that are going to push forward the teaching in your department and meet on a weekly basis to see what you can do to help in this process or simply to talk through the progress made.


Of course, there are other practical things to be done to ensure your new team members settle in quickly. Indeed, these practicalities are taken as a given and must be put in place but the focus here is on how to rebuild your team to achieve your department goals.  

A new term with a new team is a definite new and exciting start so it is important to get it right! What would you do to get your new team working together to achieve the department vision?

What strategies would you implement? Let us know below!

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