Onboarding New Teachers: Building Strong Relationships from the Beginning

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You’ve interviewed and hired your new teachers, and now you’re thinking about how to “onboard” your new staff members so that they immediately feel like an important part of the school culture and family. Why is it important, and what are some ideas for how to do it successfully?Quote by Brene Brown

Reflection questions for leaders:

-Why do new connections need to be made as quickly as possible?

-How can I be intentional about building relationships at new teacher orientation/onboarding?

-What are some ways to make new teachers’ first experiences at school very positive?

-How do I ensure that new teachers are seen, heard, and valued at orientation as well as through their first year?

-Who needs to be involved with the planning and implementation of new teacher onboarding?

-What opportunities can I create for new teachers to immediately contribute and share their strengths?

-How can we celebrate our new teachers?

-What will I do to get to know the new teachers well?

-How can we show we care for our new teachers?

Quote by Jennifer Hogan

New Teacher Onboarding/Orientation will look different at every school, because every school culture is different. There are some key elements that should in all of them. 

1) Celebration 

Create a special occasion for your new teachers. I wrote about how we had a “New Teacher Signing Day” at our school a few years ago. It was such a big hit, it has become a tradition!

Other ideas to celebrate your new teachers: 

-Provide lunch, complete with a special dessert

-Hang a welcome sign or banner on their classroom doors 

-Purchase “Welcome to _____ School” yard signs and place in each new teacher’s yard 

-Put together a low-cost, cute basket of basic supplies from Target Dollar Spot, Dollar Tree, or a school supply store.

-Leave a note or card in his/her staff mailbox, etc.

2) Relationship Building

Not everyone enjoys ice breakers, but there are some that are not too painful and can be fun! Find activities that give new teachers an opportunity to share a little bit about themselves, their strengths, and experiences. 

Ideas for relationship building:

I like to ask new teachers, “What drives your engine? What motivates you?”

-Taking a free and online strengths test is a good way to discover more about one’s own strengths and each other’s strengths.  

-Invite other staff members, such as mentors, department chairs, administrators, and/or counselors, to have lunch with the new teachers during orientation. Ask them to sit among the new teachers so that they will have an opportunity to chat and get to know each other.

3) Introduction to the school culture

     It’s important for new employees to learn about and get a sense of the school’s norms, both formal and informal. New employees should learn about the organization’s core values and goals, as well as how team members are expected to contribute to the success of their students and the school in general. New employees need to know the chain of command and how leadership works with the different teams in the building. Take time to explain the why behind specific actions and policies, as well as the “non-negotiables.”

Quote by Jennifer Hogan

Culture Resources: 

Culturize, by Jimmy Casas – This is a great book for a book study!

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Hazelden Foundation

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