I was hired on a Tuesday, reported to professional development with district teachers on Friday, and was thrust in front of students the following Monday.
Thankfully, I had an excellent student teaching experience that prepared me to confidently teach the content. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for the myriad other situations all teachers tackle — responsibilities that are particularly challenging for new teachers. I had to seek out individuals to help me. That is, after I figured out what I didn’t know and figured out who I needed to approach for help. Some were helpful, while others were not.
Once I became a principal, I vowed to create a structure to support new teachers. Here are my suggestions for creating an intentional new teacher induction process for your school.
I highly suggest monthly check-ins for new teachers. Begin by making a schedule to meet once a month. It’s helpful to choose the same day of each month so that it’s easy to remember.
If you’re not sure what topics to cover in your meetings, check in with your newest hires from the previous two years, as they will have the freshest ideas. You might ask them questions like:
- What does a new teacher need to get the physical classroom ready?
- How do you manage your budget and supplies? What does a new teacher really need?
- What are the different parent situations that caught you by surprise?
- What suggestions do you have for routines, behavior management, and structures for different content areas?
- What’s the best way to approach schedules?
- What’s the most important thing you would tell a new teacher about team meetings and PLCs?
- What advice do you have about tackling curriculum?
- What does a new teacher need to know about me (the principal), counselors, media specialists, etc. when they’re looking for support?
The First Meeting
Overly zealous administrators and supervisors want to give new teachers “everything they could possibly need” (cough — binders of stuff).
First rule: Less is more.
New teachers are already feeling overwhelmed. At this point, they just need to survive the first few days of school, so narrow down your topics to what is most important to get them through those first days. Namely, these topics should be:
- The first day of school: Really, the most important things on the first day of school are getting everyone fed, not losing anyone, and getting everyone on the right bus. Beyond that, help teachers think through things like:
- Establishing initial routines such as attendance, lunch, moving through hallways, changing classes, recess, cell phone expectations, restroom breaks, and dismissal
- What they need to send to the office daily (e.g., attendance), including how to do it and by what time
- Classroom rules and expectations: Go over best practices for setting classroom norms. For example:
- Fewer rules are easier than a long list of rules.
- When creating rules: (1) Involve the students, (2) keep them short, and (3) narrow down to three rules.
- Introduce one new expectation or routine each day, and practice previously learned expectations as you add new ones.
This first meeting with new teachers should take place a week before school starts. Plan on meeting for an entire morning, and leave the afternoon open to allow your technology point person to teach new teachers about the platforms they will be using.
In addition, each new teacher should be assigned a mentor teacher, and the mentors should attend this introductory meeting. They can add to the discussion, answer questions, and become a resource for new teachers after the meeting.
This meeting is an opportune time for new teachers to get to know you and for you to begin a proactive relationship with them. Be approachable, supportive, and open-minded. This will begin to build trust and let teachers know that you are there to help them throughout the year.
After the initial meeting, select topics for each month based on what is coming up in the school year. For example, my school had parent–teacher conferences in October and November. As a result, October’s meeting addressed effective practices for parent conferences.
Other topics might include:
- Report cards (expectations, making comments, etc.)
- Best instructional practices
- Behavior management strategies
For each meeting, it’s helpful to provide cheat sheets that are easy to use at a glance. For example, at the first meeting, I would give out a cheat sheet called “Who Ya Gonna Call?” On it, I listed all the key phone extensions, e-mail addresses, and cell phone numbers for myself, other administrators, the head custodian, etc. In addition, it included our school and district street addresses.
Other cheat sheets (all one page) covered topics such as:
- School security protocols
- Special education acronyms (e.g., IEP, FERPA, SDI)
- PLC outline
- School initiatives
- Positive behavior management techniques
Final Words of Wisdom
Being a new teacher is overwhelming. Don’t add to the stress by piling on more than they can handle. Be thoughtful and provide information in increments based on what’s most important at the time.
Also keep in mind that being “new” actually lasts about three years. Year one focuses on learning what school is and how to teach. Year two focuses on understanding the curriculum and instructional practices. It also is a year to “fix” what didn’t go well the first year. And the third year is a time to refine and learn about best instructional practices in a more in-depth manner.
If you remain focused on guiding your teachers and being a constant support during that challenging first year, you’ll have a happy and successful staff who want to stay at your school for years to come.