Imagine yourself as a new teacher. You go through the process of being interviewed, you receive an offer for employment, and are now accepted into a new position in a brand-new school district.
It’s usually at that point when a million questions start to flood your mind. Questions about your classroom, your students, and your new schedule are usually on the front of your minds, but somewhere in the back, you are also thinking about items like salary, benefits, and how to make the most out of the new relationships you will soon be forming.
This is where New Employee Orientation (NEO) comes into play.
Traditionally, NEO is a wonderful, and well-planned event that happens each summer as the new school approaches. At that time, new hires to the district gather together to learn about the new district and are generally greeted with speech after speech from all the key people in the district.
Recently however, there has been a growing trend in education to support staff members entering the district throughout the course of the school year by holding NEO sessions sometimes once a month and more so once a week as turnover in school districts is on the high side since the Pandemic began.
What should NEO look like to a staff member? Why is it important? What is the purpose of putting on a show each week to support new staff members? What is the role of the Instructional Coach and how can coaches be leveraged to support not only the orientation event but use it to springboard important relationships that have a lasting effect on students in the classroom.
In this blog post, we are going to look at how your school district can build and support a dynamic New Employee Orientation program that provides new hires with exactly what they need, how they need it, and when they need it.
In the Beginning …
In the winter of 2020, I was asked by my school district to help develop a brand-new way of welcoming staff members into the district. The previous way of doing this was to bring new hires into a central office conference room and provide them with a half day of informational sessions provided by members of our leadership team.
The NEO session as a whole was very effective. The day started off with our IT team sharing a bit about the technologies that we use and helping new hires log into their new accounts. Throughout the morning, members from our Human Resources, Finance, Safety and Security, and Communications team gave presentations about how the district works, how to access important tax and financial information, and after a few hours, the staff members were released at lunch time and officially welcomed into the district.
It was from this blueprint where we started crafting a more efficient and effective model for NEO. We knew that we had all the key ingredients, but some things were missing in order to give our new employees their best advantage for that first day when they entered their new careers.
Creating a Vision for New Employee Orientation
To begin the transformation of our New Employee Orientation program, we first asked the question “What does a new hire need to know on their first day of employment?” We knew that it was important for everyone to have the basic knowledge of their financial plan and some basic rules of engagement with our district policies, but we realized that the topics that were being discussed in NEO were not meeting the needs of someone entering the classroom the next day.
Keeping in mind that the rethinking and recreation of our NEO program was happening at a time where teachers were being asked to teach in a new hybrid learning environment where students were both physically in front of teachers as well as distance learning at home, we knew that teachers would be walking into the classroom the next day needing to be prepared for every possible situation so that students and families would have the best opportunity to learn together.
In order to do this, we needed more time.
Expanding the Schedule to Support all Learning Styles.
The first thing that was agreed upon was that NEO needed to shift from being a half day event to a full day PD (Professional Development) session. In order to properly prepare our staff members for both their internal and professional responsibilities a second half of the day was created specifically for certified staff members, (teachers and support staff working with students in the classroom) to help them learn about how to use our digital learning tools such as our EdTech applications, interactive boards, and document cameras.
By adding this second half, we were able to focus our training on supporting teachers directly to provide them the answers and resources to get them up and running so they would have the best chance of succeeding in the classroom.
Enter …. The Instructional Coaching Department
The addition of this teacher focused PD portion of the day not only supported classroom-based employees directly, but also made it possible for including our Instructional Coaches in the NEO day.
Because this second half of the day was led by our Instructional Coaches, it gave the Digital Learning department two key advantages that were not there before.
- Coaches are able to introduce themselves to new hires and begin the mentor relationship with new staff members that will continue into the classroom and throughout the year.
- New staff members now have a name and a face to be able to ask questions both during the day and during the school year.
Breaking down NEO into Teacher Focused Sessions
The second half of the day now consists of 3 unique sessions:
- Microsoft/Google 101 (Classroom, Teams, Email, etc)
- Hardware (Interactive Boards, Laptops, Document Cameras etc)
- Practical Applications for use in classroom activities (Nearpod, WeVideo, etc)
By breaking down the second half of NEO this way, Coaches are able to learn more about their new teaching staff and promote the use of partnering with new teachers across the district even if they aren’t physically working (during NEO) with new staff members that will be stationed in their traditional buildings.
How Can New Employee Orientation Support Your Students?
As the school begins to turn the corner and we all look ahead to a summer of Regrowth and rebirth, I would encourage every school district to look at the way they are bringing in new hires. New Employee Orientation isn’t simply a day to provide presentation after presentation to new hires to make their heads spin uncontrollably, it’s an opportunity to help everyone learn how to be successful at the very first moment they step foot into their classroom or sit down at their desk.
At the heart of this training is your Instructional Coaching Department. The Instructional Coach is your key figure in supporting staff members both in and out of the classroom. By creating opportunities for long lasting relationships early, new staff members not only walk away from NEO knowing that they have someone on their side but have a face and a name to call upon in their first few days to help them get settled into the building and become successful with their students.
If you have any questions on how my district has evolved our New Employee Orientation program, I’m happy to discuss and jump on a call with you and your district to discuss how you can create a dynamic and successful NEO program.