10 Wonderful New Teacher Orientation Ideas to Support New Hires
There are few things more nerve-wracking than starting a new teaching job at a different school, especially if it’s your first year of teaching.
One way to ease the stress on new teachers is by hosting a new teacher orientation as part of your professional development for the upcoming school year.
Below are my best new teacher orientation ideas that can be easily integrated with your back to school professional development.
Offering a new teacher orientation allows new staff members to find smaller groups where they can plug in, especially if their new teaching team isn’t as welcoming to the new team members as you’d like.
Setting aside some of your back-to-school professional development hours for new hires is a great way to foster community and ease some jitters for the new teammates.
New Teacher Orientation Ideas
To really nail your new teacher orientation, check out these ten tips:
- Utilize team building activities.
- Make time to discuss quality instruction.
- Present your vision, mission and goals in a way that inspires.
- Offer new teammates insight into each other’s work styles.
- Have new hires share previous classroom experiences.
- Create a fun and helpful campus directory in Google slides.
- Plan for peer observations and mentorship.
- Give new teachers the gift of time.
- Integrate it with back to school PD.
- Honor new teammates with a welcome meal.
Read more below!
Restructure your back-to-school professional development outline.
Many schools will expose the entire staff to the same professional development outline, knowing that some items need a yearly refresher. Building an orientation program into your back to school professional development will lighten the load on your human resources department without taxing your building principal.
For example, perhaps a principal wants to train the whole campus on the items in your employee or staff handbook. Maybe you think that since everyone needs to be reminded of the basics and updated on new items, you’ll just give the entire team the same professional development.
I would argue that you’re better off dividing up into two groups – one large group that can receive only new information, and a smaller group of new hires that will require more in-depth learning and the opportunity to feel comfortable asking lots of questions without fear of feeling completely clueless.
Consider putting these types of informational pieces all together in one half-day block, so that you can target your learning to the two different groups: returning teachers and new hires.
Make time for team-building activities.
Your new hires will likely be spread across the building instead of all belonging to one team. Therefore, many of your teams may have a mix-up in their group dynamics.
One of our favorite activities for professional development has been to meet at the mall for a back-to-school scavenger hunt – and the winning team gets a long lunch once school gets back. One year, we were proud to have risen to a B rating from the state, so everyone on our scavenger hunt list began with a B. Teachers got to guess WHY at our back to school meeting. It was the first time they had learned about our exciting new rating, so there were many happy tears.
For more fun team-building activities specifically for teachers, check out this post from Sign Up Genius.
Create opportunities for new hires to discuss classroom management and classroom instruction.
Classroom management strategies are best discussed as a grade-level team, whereas classroom instruction conversations should take place vertically.
That’s because classroom management works best when all the teachers that a child has during the day are in agreement about policies and procedures for things like tattling vs. telling, how to line up for lunch, etc.
You’ll want new teachers to have time during orientation to meet with other people who will share their students. They should have an opportunity to get in agreement about how they’ll handle all the management and behavioral issues that come up during the school day.
Similarly, provide a chance for new hires to meet their departmental teams to discuss content. If your school doesn’t do Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), they’ll need to at least know who else teaches the same content, even if it’s not the same grade level.
Have new employees share about their previous classroom experiences.
Many new hires are bringing with them lots of valuable experience at old campuses, but also sometimes baggage or learning gaps that might provide helpful insight.
For example, if someone is coming from a dramatically different grade level or even state, they’ll have lots of gaps in their understanding and preparation for the new school year. Making other teachers aware of this can allow them to offer help.
Conversely, those old experiences can be value-added. Previous school experiences can invigorate your school with new ideas and approaches to learning. These teachers may seem uninformed, but they also bring expertise in areas which your school may need support. They can provide professional development.
Occasionally, a teacher will share about a horrible experience at an old campus. This can provide instructional coaches and leadership with valuable insight on how to support this new teacher.
For example, one of our teachers left for another school and then came back two years later. We learned that while away, she was mistreated by the instructional coaches at her other campus. We were surprised, because we knew her to be an excellent teacher.
We made a strategic decision to give her a couple months of space while she reintegrated back into our school culture, and gave her a heads-up when we’d be stopping by to observe. By taking a gentle approach, we earned her trust and now have the ability to help her when necessary.
Present your vision, mission statement, and campus goals inspirationally.
If you’re providing a campus-wide back to school PD about the vision, mission, and goals of the school, you’re likely to just touch on these parts and move on quickly, unless you’re starting all over. After all, if the same ones have been in place for years, your veteran teachers may not need to spend much time on it.
However, these elements of your school culture are too important to just gloss over when new teammates are coming on board.
Instead, consider having one of your most inspirational, well-spoken, enthusiastic teachers present these at your new teacher orientation.
He or she could talk about what the vision and mission of the school means to them, and even provide special anecdotes that bring the vision and mission to life.
Save the campus goals for the principal of the school. He or she should talk about the specific, measurable goals for the school year. It’s important that all new hires are ready to contribute to these goals.
Provide structure for grade levels to learn more about their new teammates’ work styles.
Every time there is a new team member on a grade level or special team, it mixes up the personalities and creates a new dynamic.
The first few months of a new working relationship are so important to get right. This helps to prevent confusion and anger amongst teammates.
While some personalities will never mix well, others just need to have a better understanding of how each person likes to work together.
My favorite resource for guiding groups that must collaborate is a book called The Big Book of Tools for Collaborative Teams in a PLC at Work by William M. Ferriter. I got this book after hearing Ferriter speak at a PLC conference in San Antonio, Texas.
The book is filled with helpful graphic organizers and templates that can foster meaningful conversation as you’re setting up teams that will work together at school. The idea is to move beyond cooperation and into true collaboration.
In our school district, we also utilize TeamSight. We each take the “test” and then share the results with one another.
Another useful tool is the Languages of Appreciation by Gary Chapman. If you’re familiar with the 5 Love Languages, this is a similar book (with an included assessment) that allows people to better show appreciation to one another in the workplace. It was really helpful for our school!
The tool that you use is less important than taking the opportunity to discuss work styles with each other freely. Provide a framework and structure for teachers to talk openly about how they best function in teams so that they can get off to the right start. Even if there’s no new team members, the entire staff can benefit from a “reset.”
Share favorites and a staff directory with a Google Slides presentation.
One of our teachers downloaded a TPT Google Slides template and then edited it to become an “About Me” slide for each teacher in our building. She created the blank templates and then each teacher was required to go fill out his or her relevant personal information at the start of the year.
This presentation is housed on our shared page, where all teachers can access it at any time. We use this information to spoil each other with treats, remember birthdays, and more.
Because it’s a photo directory, this is especially helpful for new teachers who haven’t yet memorized names and roles in the building. Schools are made up of smaller teams within one big team, and having a photo directory eases confusion for new employees.
Access our free template here.
Cater a special welcome meal or organize a welcome potluck.
Consider hosting a special meal during back to school professional development to welcome your new teachers. They can be your guests of honor, and you can gather some special information you can use for introductions.
Teachers have a lot on their plates this time of year, so it’s better not to ask them to participate in a potluck. However, when we have our annual Super Bowl or March Madness nacho bar potluck, we have fabulous participation and the food is excellent.
So I think a potluck can be a great option if you’re in a pinch and your teachers seem enthusiastic to share their home cooking.
A better option is to use part of your professional development budget or get a donation for catering, and again, make your new teachers the guests of honor.
Consider having one of your best teachers give a quick welcome speech or comedy routine while everyone enjoys their meal. If you don’t have anyone funny, then a quick word of encouragement from the principal can lift spirits as teachers navigate the anticipation of setting up for a new school year.
Plan for peer observations and mentorship.
One of the best ways to support a new teacher is by covering their class so they can observe the best teachers in the building.
If they are an experienced teacher, they can still benefit from watching all their teammates in action, whether those teachers are strong or not. Watching teammates can offer valuable insight into the student experience in the departmentalized grade levels. It can also help teachers figure out whether or not they’d like to collaborate with each other on specific projects.
Brand new teachers can venture outside their grade level to get inspiration and ideas from any other grade level, because they often need support with classroom management techniques that apply at any grade level. Send an instructional coach or other leader on these walks so they can point out what’s really working for other teachers.
Many times, brand new teachers will notice all the wrong thing on walks, like how beautiful the bulletin boards might be, or they’ll latch onto an irrelevant stylistic difference in the way a teacher interacts with kids.
Having an instructional leader to point out high impact strategies can really help.They can also help a new teacher pinpoint one small action step to make a difference in their own classroom.
You might also consider a formal mentorship program. Match a new teacher to your school – whether they are experienced or not – with a suitable mentor who is enthusiastic about helping a new teacher. Look for stipend money if possible, because a mentee can take up quite a bit of time from your veteran teachers.
For more instructional coaching tips, see this post.
Give new teachers the gift of time.
If you really want to support your newest teachers during back to school PD, it’s best to give them plenty of time in their classrooms, with a mentor available. Sometimes, all the new learning can be overwhelming.
Meanwhile, the teacher is internally panicking about room decorating and organizing, creating a lesson plan for the first few days of school, and all other first day of school tasks.
It may seem like room decorating isn’t that important and should be done outside of school hours, but most teachers do a lot of internal processing and mental prepwork as they “mindlessly” set up their rooms. I often thought through my classroom procedures through the simple task of organizing materials and setting up desks and tables.
Most teachers minds never really turn off, so give them the opportunity during your professional development to have some alone time in their rooms. They’ll love you for it, and it may be the most important part of your back to school PD.
If you’re wondering how to create time and space for new teachers to set up their rooms, consider procrastinating their new learning. What are most of your teachers learning during back to school PD that could be rescheduled for your new hires?
Go ahead and create a calendar invite for a month into the school year during their conference time, and recruit a veteran teacher to get them trained.
For teachers who are entering a new career or stepping into a new role, there’s an overwhelming amount of information to learn. It’s so important to treat them differently than you would your returning teachers. Each staff person has different needs, so try to customize your back to school professional development to include a new teacher orientation. It will be worth your time and effort to have new employees who are less stressed as the year progresses.