By Bonnie Stephan Bomar, PhD

In our profession, it is not uncommon to be the new kid on the block. In my experience though, going into a new job is not unlike a new relationship. You go through a series of feelings including paying more attention to how you dress and even how you talk! There’s:

  • Excitement: I got the job!
  • Passion: I love my work and cannot wait to use my skill set to make this an even better school or district and to learn from my new colleagues!
  • Uncertainty: Did I make the right choice in changing jobs?
  • Nervousness: I hope I get it right!
  • Doubt: What if I have bitten off more than I can chew?

In a new relationship, we often go above and beyond to let our new partner know how excited we are to welcome them into our lives (check in frequently, send flowers, eat lunch together). We talk for hours to make sure we know each other as thoroughly as possible and we look forward to time with them. We include them in our plans and ask them what they want to do.

The difference I have noted is, in regards to the new professional relationship, we often don’t take the time to romance the new employee. We forget to stop and think how unnerving it is not to know names, faces, where the copy room is, or where the restroom is for that matter! “They will figure it out eventually,” is often the school of thought (pun intended).

We do not always remember the new employee may be new to the area. They may not know where to refill prescriptions, shop, or get a haircut. They are not sure where to eat lunch or buy groceries. They may be missing family members and not know anyone in the area.

Now, anytime I read anything education related, my first question is always, “How is this going to directly help me make a positive difference for the kids in my school district or building?” Think of it this way—the group that potentially “dies” on our learning curve as new employees, is the students.

So how we bring our new employees into the fold matters. Shortening their learning curve is a crucial first step for their success and ultimately ours. I have heard people say, “That’s Human Resource’s job not the campus or my office.” But much like campus discipline, it is everyone’s job!

When staff feel welcome and know the expectations clearly, it sets the stage for so much more than just a job. Building a district and campus culture that does that will make for a much better organization.

From recent experience, I can you tell you a more effective on-boarding process in education matters. It’s not just a one-shot deal, either, like new teacher induction training or new employee orientation. It has to be ongoing and intentional.

In order for things to run smoothly at work, our basic needs need to be met as well. Maslow’s research doesn’t only apply to the classroom or school building in regards to kids. The new adults need to feel valued and understand the vision and mission of the district as well. But it’s more than that, and it’s important to remember the new people in every level of the organization—even your new principals and assistant principals.

The adults we hire, from our leadership team to the new cafeteria staff, need to know what we value as an organization, what is expected of them daily, and where to turn when they need assistance or have questions. It can be as simple as:

  • Giving the new employee a school shirt or key chain with the district logo or campus mascot.
  • Providing a district or campus list of “Who’s Who” (with contact names, job titles and phone numbers).
  • Providing local information from the Chamber of Commerce for doctor’s offices and other key services for those new to the area or region.

Consider creating a welcome package if your HR department has not created one. This makes people feel welcome and encouraged by their new role in their new district. The immediate buy-in and their overall feeling is positive which will lead to productive partnerships and collegial relationships.

It’s important to strike while the iron is hot—a new employee is almost always already excited to be onboard with their new team. So now is the time to make clear how they can help move your organization forward while acknowledging their existence and wellbeing.

Resource: 8 Strategies to Improve Onboarding for Teachers

About the Author

Dr. Bonnie Stephan Bomar, Principal of Groesbeck High School in Groesbeck ISD, has been an educator for more than 24 years. Throughout her career, her focus has been on building instructional capacity in all educators and being a driving force for positive movement in our profession. Dr. Bomar is committed to making a difference for all educators and ultimately all students!

TEPSA News, September/October 2019, Vol 76, No 5

Copyright © 2019 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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