Good leadership is the key to a successful new teacher onboarding program or process. I believe that new teacher onboarding should be no different than in any business. According to the Society of Human Resources, four distinct levels or building blocks called “the four Cs” should be used in successful onboarding programs. These should all be driven by the district/school leadership and not left to the Human Resource Department alone.
The four Cs are:
- Compliance: Training employees on basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations
- Clarification: Ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and expectations
- Culture: Providing employees with a sense of organizational norms—both formal and informal
- Connection: Fostering vital interpersonal relationships and information networks
These translate very well into the education world. Let’s look at these four building blocks or levels.
These are required personnel forms needed before the first day. Background checks, W-4 and I-9 forms, health insurance, retirement plans, and other employee benefits including the district and campus employee handbook would all be considered essential items in this area. Getting these done first helps teachers focus on the many other items needed for their successful onboarding.
This includes district policies, dress code, visitor policies, attendance procedures, purchase requests, and expense reporting. Training on school and district technology would also fall under this category with telephone, email, and software covered here. Providing a tour of the building, including school layout and covering bus entrance and teacher parking, helps teachers feel comfortable in their environment.
It’s also important for the new teacher to understand the district’s approach to curriculum development and expectations for lesson plans, classroom assessment, and grading procedures. Reviewing expectations for student discipline inside and outside of the classroom is important in this category as well as the referral process for students with special needs. Continue onboarding with the teacher evaluation process and resources/opportunities for professional development.
We have 80,000+ microlearning videos and hundreds of professionally developed courses designed to help you master new skills, practice concepts, share ideas, and assess learning. Learn more here.
It’s very important for the new teacher to understand your district and school culture. This is always a work in progress and changes greatly with leadership, but most schools and districts have traditions and a shared culture that can make a new teacher feel like an outsider if they aren’t a part of it. It’s important for leadership to give the new teacher a welcome packet with district/school mission, vision, and goals, along with communicating district/school values/traditions and setting expectations for collaboration and positive interpersonal relationships. This can include important district/school initiatives (digital or otherwise), so the new teacher quickly buys in and becomes part of the team.
If your school culture values collaboration and fostering connections (relationships), then it’s easier for new teachers to build and maintain positive relationships with their colleagues. Leadership should provide an organization chart or list of who everyone is and what they do. Besides administration, this should include instructional coaches/facilitators, tech support, and human resources. And most importantly, who are the mentor(s) that they can go to for everyday questions and help? Assigning a mentor up front helps tremendously, before that teacher gets overwhelmed and frustrated. Leadership should compensate mentors with a gift card or other small token of appreciation, including recognition on their employee evaluations. Being a mentor to a new teacher can be a lot of work, and not everyone understands the importance and time required to assist those new teachers.
Ideally, new teacher onboarding should last throughout the first few months or first year, especially with a first-year teacher. Developing new teachers into good, experienced teachers is the responsibility of district/school leadership. New teacher onboarding is just the beginning of developing and retaining quality teachers. With statistics that say over 44% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, it’s important to have a quality new teacher onboarding program, along with a quality retention plan. And that’s the proof of good leadership and a great conversation for another time.
- Empowering Administrators through Social and Emotional Learning (Also, check out the two-part Empowering Administrators through Social and Emotional Learning workshop and more in our SEL Toolkit!)
- Tough Conversations with Students: Racism and Mental Health
- How to Improve Teacher-Student Communication in Virtual Classrooms