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Chapter 6 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

How to Make Beginning Teachers and New Staff Feel Welcome

Feeling anxious about the first day of school is natural for first year teachers. Experienced teachers can ease this tension by arriving at school before the new staff members and welcoming them honestly and sincerely, perhaps offering to lead them on an informal tour of the school. Before this is done, perhaps a goody bag could be prepared and given to the new staff members making them feel like they are part of the school family. Acquaint them with the community that is to become their new home by highlighting its recreational attractions and suggesting places for shopping. Point out the best areas for buying or leasing a house or renting an apartment. These expressions of interest build camaraderie and boost school morale. Often principals will assign experienced staff members to act as a mentor, big sister, or buddy to new staff members. When the principal asks volunteers to help orient new teachers, conscious teachers volunteer their services. Such services promote positive human relationships between present and new staff. Whether selected or not, the important thing is to be available. If chosen to be a mentor to a new staff member, readily offer assistance, information, and ideas. The newcomer usually has a multitude of questions concerning the new position, salary schedules, absence procedures, paying substitutes, contracts, insurance policies, health requirements, medical benefits, and other regulations set forth by the school system, state, and national associations. Having these questions answered expediently helps in the adjustment to a new work environment. Planning the first day is an important task for the beginning teacher who often feels insecure at the start of the school year. Guidance from an experienced professional educator is valuable. Ensure that the beginning teacher is at ease when talking about classroom teaching. Discuss organizational components informally, pointing out what will be expected. Help with lesson planning by offering assistance rather than waiting to be asked. Impress upon the beginning teacher that if the children are performing meaningful and worthwhile learning tasks, they seldom become 17

discipline problems. Also, it is unfortunate that so many teachers plan daily classroom lessons without any knowledge of the individual needs of the child. There should be prior data on each child and the classroom teacher should actually know the performance of each child before they know the child's face. Emphasize to the new teacher that data analysis for differentiation within the classroom is crucial in order to reach all levels of students. If at all possible, arrange for the new teacher to observe an experienced teacher in a classroom teaching situation. Such thoughtful gestures are appreciated, though this is not always verbalized. It is a belief and empirical evidence mirror the notion that support and assistance for beginning teachers are extremely beneficial. Many schools now have a teacher induction program designed to help new teachers during the first few critical years in the classroom. Principals promote and closely assess new teachers particularly in the area of instructional techniques appropriate for the grade level, teaching practices, creating a positive learning environment, and classroom management techniques. There is no doubt that the new teacher would appreciate a support system with ongoing assistance intended to reduce problems inherent to teaching, improve their overall teaching effectiveness, become integrated into the social system of the school, district, and the community, and analyze and reflect upon their teaching with coaching from veteran teachers. While induction occurs at the school level, the school district must be significantly involved in supporting new teachers in their new job. This can be done through various kinds of resource allocations and partnering with nearby colleges and universities particularly, if funding is an issue. Colleges of Education and Educational Leadership programs can serve as conduits in providing professionals with expertise as a way of showing service on their annual evaluation. This can have mutual benefits. Explain that in the event of unusual requests by children, parents of children, or parents requiring a decision, the principal is to be contacted before the decision is rendered. It is important that the new staff member keep the principal informed about special requests. Before accepting a position in a school district, the teacher should explore and have some basic knowledge and information about the community. Schools tend to be 18

a reflection of the culture of the community. In order to function within the expectations of a given community, the beginning teacher should not forget the code of ethics that governs professionals in education. Revisiting and practicing those ethics will assist in assuring the new teacher of success and longevity in the school district where they are employed.. Some school systems and communities do not approve of certain behaviors of teachers because of the culture of the community. If there are certain peculiarities and issues within the community that the teacher should be aware of, drop in for an informal visit with the new teacher during the day or at the close of the school day and mention these issues. Regardless how foolish they seem, it is best to advise newcomers before mistakes are made. Do not burden the new staff member with school problems. Refrain from discussing petty gripes or such things as the pros and cons of the teaching profession. The beginning teacher or new staff member does not need an experienced professional pointing out such things, as they will discover them soon enough on their own.

A Thought in Words Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know, it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. Ruskin