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How to Foster a Welcoming Environment for New Teachers

August 4, 2020 / by Andrew DeBella

With the beginning of the year approaching, many new teachers will find themselves in what can be an absolutely terrifying situation, not only learning to feel comfortable standing in front of students for the first time, but learning to navigate relationships with other teachers as well. New teachers will be faced with acclimating themselves and students to a world of blended and online learning. All the more reason to create a seamless transition and welcome new teachers by using four simple strategies, including tips for blended, online, and in-person classes.

Tip 1- Include New Teachers in the Community

Invite New Teachers to Community Events

One of my first experiences as a new teacher was when a veteran teacher insisted that I attend the school’s ‘Back to School’ bash that night - an event where teachers and students alike participate in mud sliding. I remember being terribly nervous, and trying to come up with an excuse not to go. It would have been so easy for that teacher to just think ‘well, I tried,’ but instead he persisted. And it was at that moment I knew that he really cared about making me feel welcome at the school, and that made a significant impression on me. From then on, I knew I could trust him, go to him for help, or ask him questions when in need. But it doesn’t stop there, take an opportunity this year to integrate those new teachers into your school’s culture. Show them you really care, and make a noticeable effort to include them, whether it’s dances, celebrations, sporting events, or even mud sliding.

→ While many in person events may not be possible this school year, you can still make simple gestures to have them feel included, like making an eCard from your department welcoming them to your group!

Ask New Teachers to Join for Lunch

A small but powerfully welcoming gesture -  inviting new teachers to sit with your group may seem like good etiquette in grade school, but might be the gesture a new teacher needs to feel like part of the team. We all need a place to feel like ourselves, to shed the name tag and title and just be a person, make friends,  laugh, joke, and forget about the struggles - even just for 30 minutes - of daily teaching life. Give this opportunity to your new teachers, share a meal with them, and truly get to know them. 

→ If eating lunch together isn’t possible, try a Zoom or Google Meets lunch! 

Encourage Conversation During PLC

Reach out and ask questions in PLC to gauge your new teachers thoughts, ideas, and opinions. By not only listening with an open mind, but allowing them an opportunity for their voices to be heard, new teachers will have an opportunity to participate in planning, discussing, and creating material, helping integrate them into the PLC team

Tip 2 - Mentor with Humility.

Provide Classroom Support, but Offer Emotional Support, Too. 

We've all been that new teacher before, and we all wish we had someone to lean on for that tough first year. During my first year, I had an especially rowdy 5th hour. I felt like I was herding cats, and when I finally got one group of students on track, I had another three groups lost in space. I was drowning, and I needed help. When I expressed this to one of my co-workers, she gave up her plan - which just so happened to be 5th hour - to be a part of my class every day, give me advice, and help plan lessons. The amount of unparalleled knowledge, discipline strategies, and classroom management skills learned that year - skills that I still use today - is invaluable. 

→ For distance learning, make a schedule to meet with your coworker online at least once a week! 

Be Cautious to Make Snap Judgments.

Let’s face it, if we looked back at our first year, most of us would never say we were a super teacher, so what makes our incoming teachers any different? Just as we allow our students to make mistakes, because it encourages growth, we need to give new teachers this same courtesy. These early mistakes are integral to learning; use them as teachable moments, and remember that learning from these mistakes will make them great teachers. 

Tip 3 - Refrain from Being Dismissive

Listen to New Ideas with an Open Mind

New teachers have new ideas. Nothing can upset veteran teachers more than changing the status quo, but just as we encourage our students to have a growth mindset, we should, too. Listen, engage, and truly consider new ideas - while always keeping student success in mind. Remember, they may just bring the next best idea to the table to increase student success! 

Deflect Gossip

Teachers talk; we all know it happens, and it can be a very small world of gossip. Everybody wants to know, ‘how’s the new guy?’, but don’t forget that what you say about someone may inevitably get back around. Just as we wouldn’t want other co-workers gossiping about us - the golden rule - new teachers deserve a chance to make a name for themselves without any preconceived notions. With this in mind, not only should we refrain from making assumptions about others, but we should also make sure to actively dismiss gossip, only encouraging constructive feedback with our peers. 

Tip 4 - Be a Friend

Sometimes what we need more than professional guidance is simply companionship, someone to truly listen, someone to whom we can vent, someone that understands what we go through. Being a new teacher is scary, and we all need a friend. Often what makes or breaks a school district for someone might just be that friend at the end of the hall, the person you go to when you're seeking advice, that person who really cares about how you’re doing. That person can make all the difference, so be that person for someone who may need it the most - a new teacher. 

→ If you’re not in-person, get their phone number and text them often! They will appreciate having someone to talk to outside of their house anyway!

Now more than ever, in the midst of a global pandemic, starting school is going to be difficult for everyone, especially new teachers. Think back to your first day of teaching - how nervous we all were to stand in front of students, how reluctant we were to contribute in meetings - and try to remember that these new teachers probably feel the same way. Be an ally and support each other for the common goal. At the end of the day, we are all here for the same reason, our students. 

Topics: Professional Learning, New Teachers, Building Relationships

Andrew DeBella

Written by Andrew DeBella

During his short five year years as an educator, Andrew has taught ELA in all grades 9-12, including both advanced and co-taught IEP sections. In addition, Andrew created the Journalism and Creative Writing curriculum for his school - alongside an online publication for students. When Andrew is not teaching or writing, he’s traveling, spending time with his 18 month old daughter, or playing the drums. Publications: https://oklahoman.com/gallery/6041472/editorial-cartoons-07-13-20 https://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/columnists/andrew-debella-what-teaching-has-taught-me-about-todays-polarizing-political-climate/article_7cc6939a-f547-542d-b6fb-bd26f48a2610.html

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