The Right Way to Welcome a New Teacher to Your School

I don’t care how old you are, being new anywhere is a nerve-rattling experience. This is especially true for new teachers, who must take responsibility for classroom culture and find ways to fit into the expectations of the school.

How you welcome a new teacher in your school can determine the path of their career success.They need you to be welcoming, friendly and open. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with caring colleagues who went out of their way for me, and I show my gratitude by doing the same for new colleagues.

Start with a smile

Nothing will calm a person’s nerves quicker than seeing a smiling face. When getting to know your school’s newest teachers, be certain to be friendly, opening and excited for them.

Be sure to present the work of your school in the most positive light and skip the references to your frustrations with the school. We all have our frustrations, but remember our new colleagues are just starting out on what they hope will be a new and exciting adventure. Don’t sour it for them.

Show them the school

It may seem like simple advice, but the basics can’t be ignored: Take your new colleagues on a building tour. Show them how to work the copier, whom to ask for tech help and where the best local places for lunch will be.

Where can they get extra classroom supplies? Where are the best places to make a cup of coffee? All those things, inconsequential as they may seem, are questions on the mind of any new co-worker. Introduce them directly to the school secretaries and custodians (and remind them that it’s the secretaries and custodians who run schools … so be nice to them!). Getting to know the small details of the building will help them to focus on their important work inside the classroom.

Steer them toward positive people

I often mention my belief that all of us will be the average of our five closest colleagues. And I say this because every organization, not just schools, has a small subset of negative employees who can poison the well for new people.

With as much tact as possible, try to steer your new colleague to co-workers who are the most pro-student, positive and encouraging. The people they surround themselves with will soon decide their attitude and work ethic.

Help, but don’t do their work

There’s a fine line between helping a new colleague get comfortable and doing their work for them. Be sure to show them around and help them find the necessary supplies, but don’t get trapped into doing their work.

Hopefully, they will acknowledge your kindness by beginning to pull their own weight. They’ll offer to help you prepare shared lessons, bring ideas to the table for class activities and otherwise help you to be a better teacher.

Staff members who only take and don’t give back often find themselves alone in lesson planning and activities. Encourage your new colleagues to be a part of the school’s sharing culture.

Guide, but don’t judge

New colleagues, especially those fresh out of college, often arrive in the classroom with a ton of theory and fieldwork, but little practical experience. There is always a learning curve between what we are taught and what we put into practice.

Let them figure out the difference between the two. After a month or so (when they’ve used many of the strategies they learned in their undergraduate work) they may come to you asking for specific help with lesson planning or classroom management. Guide them in what they can do differently and avoid any judgment or “I told you so” comments.

Letting them struggle just the littlest bit will provide excellent growth opportunities.

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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.

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