Supporting New Team Members

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Supporting New Team Members

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I walked into the school office expecting to be given a guided tour of the campus, shown my classroom, and the location of the roll paper to make some bulletin boards. What I received was a set of keys and a firm gesture pointing to a blue door across the courtyard. “That’s your room. There.”, is all he said. Cued up below the louvered windows waiting to go into the blue door were two dozen first graders. Most of them were as new to schooling as I was to teaching, they’d never done it. My first day on the job was my first day teaching. Trial by fire? Trial by volcanic-hurricane inferno is a more apt descriptive.

The first day of school is not the sole possession of children. Each school year teachers new to the profession and new to a district, school, or grade-level, have to enter a new culture. As Ross McCammon put it, they must “[demystify] the tribe”. Having been the new-guy seven times in my nineteen years as an educator, I can validate McCammon’s description. Although I had the distinct pleasure of reading seven distinct policy and procedure manuals, filling out seven W-2s, 3s, and 4s, and wrote my name and address a bazillion times, I seldom was mentored as to the dynamics of the immediate school or grade-level to which I was assigned.

In his article, “Everyone, say hi to Kevin”, McCammon brings this support down to the first day. He wrote, “We forget that an office [or school] is a tribe, and encountering that tribe for the first time is highly unsettling. You don’t speak the language. You don’t know the customs.” The article began by addressing the first hour of a new employee’s experience. He suggested providing “an emblem of preparation and care” to initiate the process. For a new teacher this may look like a classroom prepared for the new teacher void of all the stuff the previous teachers left behind (I did this six times. What? I thought the next teacher could use twenty pounds of tongue-depressors!) Hand-written welcome note from team members and administration would personalize the transition, as well. Let’s do one better and greet the new team member at the front t door of the school and escort them though the process and into their well-groomed and welcoming classroom.

Kevin Quinley tells to “make a fuss” and to “roll out the red carpet”. In building a cohesive team, start at the beginning. Make a new teacher’s first day supportive. Don’t just point them in the right direction (or to the blue door across the courtyard). Give them direction through a deliberate planning of their first day experience.

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