I love a new year with new teachers! The eagerness and excitement as well as anxiety and nervousness of a new teacher is very real, and I try hard to help diminish those stressful feelings quickly.
The first thing I do in early June is carefully pair the newbie with a rockstar mentor. This mentor is someone who is a cheerleader for kids, staff, the school and yes, me! The mentors I choose may not be a team leader or someone right next door to the newbie. They are climate builders and help build up the system as a whole. I always ask them first because I know it adds to their already busy lives, but they always answer with an excited yes.
The next thing I do is where the magic happens. We have a casual meeting at my home. It has to be off campus. Having it off campus lifts the work idea off their minds. I invite both the mentor and the mentee over to my home for some food and bonding time. I block off two hours in the afternoon prior to the new staff’s first day. I plan the time to include activities that are bonding and meaningful that will help the newbies feel welcomed and set their mind at ease. They will mingle and get to know all of the people there so that on the first day of work, they don’t have to feel left out and reserved.
When they first get there, I encourage them to grab a plate of food and a drink and mingle until everybody shows up. Some of them are a little shy at first, but when they see others belly up to the buffet, they soon follow suit. Arrival time was 4:00, but we began the real meeting around 4:15 to allow late stragglers to get there and time to munch. I then ask that they sit by their mentor/mentee and give them six minutes between them to tell each other what they want the other to know about them. Here’s the catch: the opposite person must introduce their partner to the room. This ensures that they are truly listening to their partner. This introduction activity took about 20 minutes. I like to add statements at the end of their introductions about them that I find interesting if it isn’t mentioned. Many people don’t toot their own horn, so I love to share information that I get when I call references to vet the candidates. Something like, “What you may not know about this new person is…” or “I got to tell you something I learned about …” The smiles and laughter are plentiful.
I always try to have one bonding activity. I have mixed it up in the past. One year, I gave everyone an index card and asked them to write down a dance that they knew they could probably be able to teach others how to do. The confused look on their face was funny! I already had a predetermined dance in my mind that I hoped would turn up. When the teachers revealed their dance, we all had a good laugh and many were saying, “Oh, yea, I forgot about that dance.” Some answers were the jitterbug, two-step, line dance, and then there was a desperate answer of the hokey pokey. The one that I was looking for was the nae nae. This dance just came out with the song and was on fire. Lucky for me, it came up with one of the new teachers. So, here I go, “Kara, so you really think you can teach that dance to others?” She was a young teacher, and she said yes, but the look on her face was saying, “Why is she asking me about teaching a dance!” I continued, “We are going to move to the outside, and I’m going to let you teach all of us how to do this dance!” Every one in the room laughed hysterically, and then they realized I was serious. I had a variety of people in the mix and the age span went from about 24 to 50+ years of age. The phrase you can’t teach an old dog new tricks never came to mind. The “I don’t dance” people did not have a choice in the matter, yet they hung out in the back and I saw the nervousness ease up minute by minute. It was amazing! The eager beavers that you could tell frequent clubs were a stand out! I continued to be the DJ and photographer while it was happening. The giggles and laughs were contagious! Interesting enough, I had one “senior” in the mix that had some serious moves and rhythm! Who knew! After about 10 minutes or so, we were ready for the final performance. I played the music one last time and videoed the performance. There were hugs and high fives afterwards and smiles every where as we moved back inside. Little did they know, I would be sharing the video at the back to school meeting with all staff in two weeks! I will tell you, it brought back lots of laughs and I even heard a few teachers say, “I wish I was there” and “I want to be a mentor!”
This year I passed out an article to everyone, and we read it out loud and discussed the importance of it. It was Find Your Marigold.
The discussion was rich with examples of those personalities that we have all seen at one time or another. We all believe in the marigold effect, and we all believe that we are a team of support for each other.
We ended the meeting with the mentors telling everyone one reason why they love our school. Those statements were the icing on the cake. The comments were true affirmations that were uplifting. As everyone began to leave, I had hugs from the new teachers with statements like, “I know I made the right choice.” and “This is going to be a great year!”
I hope all of you have a great beginning with your new teachers.