There is more NEW than you might think
Supporting the leadership of new educators is a big deal. To clarify, ‘new’ holds several meanings in the professional educator world, including the following: new to work immediately following college; new to the world of education; new to a school or district; or new to a role, such as grade level or subject.
Now that we’re matching in what a new educator looks like, we believe that, as leaders and learning strategists, we cannot take ‘new’ for granted. It’s an amazing opportunity that is too often decided not to be a priority of the moment. The thinking is that the same old ‘trial by fire’ philosophy is fine this year. Or “We’ll get there later. They know enough and can figure it out themselves.” While this may be true for some, are you really willing to take such a risk on the success of your students and the retention of your teachers with this orientation style?
Use it to your advantage
Utilizing all of the newness in the building has an advantage; it provides a big opportunity to lead more effectively. Let’s review some important considerations when it comes to embracing the new folks in your building this school year.
It’s an opportunity to reinforce your vision, goals, commitment, and your ‘why.’
The team may know the mission and vision for the school, but how many of them are living it? How are you, as the leader, living it? Refreshing, revisiting and renewing your commitment to this vision allows you and the team to internalize the ‘why’ and get to the how more easily. Introducing new folks into the school community is a perfect opportunity to communicate your ‘why’ to your team. As Simon Sinek compels us in his 2009 book, Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Get your team’s buy-in by rediscovering your why together.
It helps to get everyone on the same page.
This sounds pretty obvious, but this is a common assumption that far too many of us make every year. We bring a lot of our own personal styles and processes to the classroom. It can be easy to go our separate ways or stay where we feel comfortable and safe. This makes things that much more difficult for the new folks in the building. Providing opportunities to share and collaborate as a team matters. Team building facilitator and seasoned educator, Sean Glaze, shares his experience as a first-year teacher, and how his isolation made him a “lonely superhero who went home exhausted each day,” until a group of seasoned peers reached out to offer help (2014). In his Edutopia article, For Effective Schools, Teamwork is Not Optional, he reminds us that most other industries require collaborative work for efficiency and efficacy, so why not apply that same philosophy in schools?
It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce new processes and expectations.
We all hear how frustrated educators can feel at the beginning of the year when there are new initiatives, technologies, and curriculum that have been ‘sprung’ on them over the summer. As the saying goes, ‘change is the only constant thing in life’ and while we know this, getting buy-in on this truth is not easy. Using the ‘new’ in the building helps the group establish new initiatives for the year together. Engaging the group to talk through what did and didn’t work with the old way as well as talking through the pros and cons of the new way can be cathartic and forward-moving at the same time. Validating how difficult change is while moving into the new normal allows the team to use their experience and emotion for the good of the group.
It’s a great time to celebrate the successes of the entire team with a focus on growth.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. It is a team sport that has wins and losses throughout the year. The sooner the team can bond and work together with all the new, the better. The successes are that much more fun and the losses are that much more softened. Embracing the new in the building, validating the change, the constants, and the good, the bad and the ugly can build a stronger bond that allows everyone to work together.
Now, get out of their way.
Once the stage is set, the expectations and the why are internalized, move over and let them be the strong professionals you know they can be. Teacher autonomy is a major factor in job satisfaction; on the contrary, according to Richard Ingersoll, professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, a “big reason teachers quit is they feel they have no say in decisions that will ultimately affect their teaching” (2015). Every teacher wants to do a good job, and most teachers want to maintain the vision that their leaders set for them. Set that vision and then step back and allow them the opportunity to make decisions and bring their own style into the classroom. This should be held true for seasoned and novice teachers alike.
As the leader in the building, you are responsible for developing and maintaining a culture of support, positivity and solution-filled thinking. This is not something that ‘trial by fire’ will create. This is something that is done thoughtfully. Start by embracing and working with all the ‘new’ as a first strong step in a new school year filled with possibilities.
Glaze, S. (2014). For effective schools, teamwork is not an option. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/effective-schools-teamwork-not-optional-sean-glaze
Phillips, O. & Norwood, C. (2015). With fewer new teachers, why do some stick around? Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/03/21/393344523/with-fewer-new-teachers-why-do-some-stick-around
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why. New York, NY: Penguin Group.