It’s now the middle of July, and most principals have completed the hiring process—the most important job for administrators. However, I contend the hiring process extends beyond interviews and job offers. In fact, the steps we take after assembling our team are critical to teacher retention. With most schools feeling the impact of a nationwide teacher shortage, supporting newly hired teachers through effective onboarding is the best way to ensure a successful transition and to increase the likelihood your new hires will remain in your building throughout their career.
Here are a few ideas to help new employees feel supported while transitioning to a new building.
Make That Phone Call
After receiving confirmation from the human resources office that our recommended applicant has accepted our position, I call our newly hired teacher and welcome them to our school. The purpose of the call is to express my excitement for this teacher to join our team and offer immediate support.
Lead teachers and an assistant principal are always part of the interview team. Once I have made my call, I email contact information for our new hire to the lead teacher and assistant principal, and they are expected to email or call with their own welcome. The lead teacher of our math department forwards contact information to all 15 math teachers. One new hire informed me that she received a welcoming email from every math teacher in our building. Each year, nearly all of our new hires express gratitude for the welcome they received from the teachers at Lee’s Summit North.
If we did our job during the hiring season, every newly hired teacher should be excited to get started preparing for the new school year. After the last day of school, all of our new hires have the opportunity to immediately receive a school and classroom key. A few years ago, the principals in the district strongly advocated for the technology department to issue laptops for our new hires in June. Access to the building and technology allows new teachers to work as they choose over the summer. Typically, we use building funds to pay for each new teacher and mentor to spend 15 to 24 hours during the summer working on curriculum. I strongly believe providing this resource for new teachers sets the stage for the level of support teachers should expect from our administrative team through the duration of their career.
Plan Back-to-School Meetings
We schedule two days with our newly hired teachers before the entire teaching staff returns. These days are filled with information from technology, the library media center, counselors, teacher leaders, and our administrative team. One absolute is that each staff member who presents to our new teachers will be someone who I want our new teachers to see as a role model. The two to three hours new teachers spend with me in back-to-school meetings is used to communicate our three school goals, the importance of relationships, and our faculty beliefs regarding effective instruction. Additionally, we introduce book studies and various articles. A particular favorite topic with newly hired teachers has been effective grading practices.
Schedule Monthly Meetings During the School Year.
Onboarding doesn’t end with the start of the school year. I meet with new teachers once a month before first hour throughout the year. Although these meetings are short—about 20 to 30 minutes—they provide me with the opportunity to ensure my teachers are receiving the resources they need to be successful with kids. These meetings also provide us time to continue discussions that started during our back-to-school meetings.
Offering these kinds of onboarding supports to newly hired teachers will reduce teacher turnover and increase the positive culture and climate of your building. I firmly believe the second most important job of the principal, after hiring, is to support teachers by giving them the resources needed to be successful.
A thorough onboarding plan will provide you the first step in building relationships with teachers and help them feel valued and excited to start their new job.
Dr. Jeff Meisenheimer is principal of Lee’s Summit North High School in Lee’s Summit, MO. He is the 2018 Missouri High School Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @JMeis.