School Culture

How to Onboard New Teachers So They Want to Stay

Help new teachers feel like part of the team by showing them the ropes, helping them meet veteran staff—and giving them some swag.

June 21, 2024
Volodymyr Konko / iStock

I have worked at three school sites, and each was different. I didn’t know how to access the printer codes, where to get budget order forms, the school phone policies, and even weekend clearance. Most days, it seemed like a scavenger hunt that I didn’t want to be on and, for some reason, one that wouldn’t end. This feeling of not knowing resulted in my feeling like an outsider and, frankly, dumb. This is not the feeling you want for your new teachers! Even when I wasn’t considered a new teacher, since I was new to the school site, it felt like I had gone back in time to my first year of teaching. Effectively onboarding all newly hired teachers can significantly increase their comfort levels and influence their decision to stay at the school. 

5 Keys to Effective Onboarding

1. Recognizing what makes your school unique. Teaching is not simply lesson planning and grading. Many hidden tasks need to be completed each day, and each school site is different. Every school has its own culture and rules that make it unique. One school site may have a schoolwide phone policy, whereas the school down the road allows teachers to decide. One site may have a schoolwide attention signal or enforce the use of student agendas. PLC may mean something to one school and be something different to another.

School spirit alone can involve its own staff training. I have been at school sites where staff go all out (think coordinated outfits, face paint, potlucks) for school events. I have also been at sites where school events are seen as another check mark on a long list of things to do. Identifying what makes your school unique and communicating that to new hires can make them feel more like part of the team.

2. Setting up a meeting before the school year. Onboarding teachers must start before the beginning of the year’s professional development. The administration needs to run these because they communicate school-specific expectations. The meeting should include schoolwide policies, district-wide policies, teacher expectations for phones, essential dates, and other vital information—for example, defining acronyms: Schools LOVE their acronyms, yet there is rarely a guide to what these stand for. Creating a PowerPoint document with “fast facts” to be distributed to the new teachers will allow them to revisit the content when needed.

3. Communicating how to communicate. Each school has a specific way they want teachers to communicate. Is it through ParentSquare? Emailing the staff roster? Communicating through team leads? When a teacher calls home, is there a specific way to log the information from the call? At my site, the administrative team took the time to show us examples and non-examples for logging behavior entries. This streamlined approach made everybody’s jobs easier, and it took roughly 15 minutes.

Taking the time to communicate the communication policies will help teachers as they transition to their new role. Furthermore, the administration can share how they want to be communicated with (texting, email, making an appointment) so that the new teacher can get support when needed. Clarity with communication protocols will help new teachers feel like they are part of the team and avoid any mistakes. 

4. Setting time aside for staff to have fun together. Although it is nice to have a quick getting-to-know-you activity, time should be set aside for casual conversation as well. I am guilty of not paying attention to little details when we introduce new staff. I find it difficult to keep track of all the new rules and people. In addition, I truly loathe the getting-to-know-you games!

I would much rather relax and chat as new and current staff mingle. A staff outing allows the new and veteran teachers to get to know each other. Diving deeper and allowing for actual fun will ensure that teachers feel like humans, not professional-development robots. Bowling, scavenger hunts, ice cream socials, painting classes, and even sporting events are just a few ideas that can allow an opportunity for fun! 

5. Giving them some free teacher gear! Nothing screams “new teacher” like a person who doesn’t have a school shirt when everybody else is wearing one. I have been there—it’s not a fun feeling. Give the new teachers a school shirt, a coffee mug, a hat, stickers, or a workbook geared toward new teachers. Having a little goody bag ready to go with relevant items shows the care you intend to give to your new staff members. It makes them feel welcomed and excited. 

Taking time to welcome new staff and get them the correct policies, phone numbers, and teacher swag will start everybody off on the right foot. That is how we keep good teachers in the classroom. Whether you are part of the administration, a lead teacher, or just wanting to support new staff, think about what you would want if you were new and how to create a sense of inclusion and to create meaningful connections. Nobody likes to feel like the odd one out. Every staff member can do their part to include new people. When teachers feel appreciated and included, the chances of the good ones sticking around rapidly increase.

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  • New Teachers
  • Professional Learning

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