As an administrator or director, it’s important to make your teachers feel supported from the first day they start at your center. Whether they’re a first-year teacher or an experienced educator, providing a great onboarding experience can help your new hires better adjust to their new surroundings and get excited for the upcoming school year. As part of a thorough onboarding process, hosting a staff orientation can prepare teachers for what to expect in their roles at your center, help them get to know their colleagues, and allow them time to set up their classrooms.
Below, we explore some tips and strategies on how to improve your new teacher orientation to create an experience that supports, motivates, and prepares your new staff.
What is new teacher orientation?
When hiring a new teacher or childcare employee, it’s important to ensure they’re given a proper introduction to their new school and classrooms. New teacher orientation training allows you to help new hires feel more welcome in their surroundings, familiarize themselves with the resources available to them, ask questions about school policies or procedures, and start to get to know their new colleagues.
This training, when done successfully, can make teachers more confident and motivated in their new roles. That’s why it’s crucial that administrators ensure onboarding processes are comprehensive, consistent, and informative. (Tip: It's just as important to plan an orientation to welcome new families starting at your preschool as well.)
Importance of new employee onboarding process
Starting a new career, or simply starting over at a new location, can be daunting for new teachers. There are new people, policies, procedures, and expectations to learn. Having a supportive new employee onboarding process can ease the transition and provides three unique benefits for you and your new teachers.
Helps new hires stay organized
Starting a new job always involves lots of paperwork. There's a lot to keep in order, from background check forms and child safety protocols to benefit enrollment documents and school policies and procedures.
Having all these important documents compiled into an employee handbook at the start of orientation can ensure your new hires feel organized and not overwhelmed.
Increases employee retention
Poor support during the new teacher onboarding process is a common reason for employee dissatisfaction. Without proper training and guidance early on, new teachers can feel unsupported and left in the dark about school policies and expectations.
But, by investing the time and resources early on, your new teachers have the tools they need to succeed. An organized, comprehensive orientation process signals that you value your staff’s professional development, helping you build a more motivated and engaged staff.
It’s important for new and experienced teachers alike to understand your goals and the standards expected of them. By detailing how their role aligns with your company’s vision, you can enable your staff to feel more confident in their positions, allowing them to perform at a higher level.
New teacher orientation ideas
Here are eight great ideas for creating an effective new teacher orientation and onboarding process:
Share your employee handbook early
Providing new teachers with an employee handbook early gives them more time to absorb important policies and guidelines before they begin, ensuring a smoother start to the school year. Your handbook can include your mission statement, state licensing regulations, employee benefits descriptions, health and safety policies, professional development opportunities, and general staff expectations.
Host an orientation day
Have several new teachers starting at the same time? Consider hosting an orientation day to give them all a chance to get to know you and one another better. This is the perfect time to collectively review your employee handbook, incorporate a few team building activities, and get your new staff excited to start the school year.
Give new hires a tour
In addition to learning new processes and meeting new colleagues, new hires also need to become familiar with an entirely new facility. Give your new hires a school tour and cover important information along the way, like classroom responsibilities, emergency exit locations, cleaning protocols, drop-off and pick-up procedures, parking information, and details on daily schedules and breaks.
Have new hires shadow current staff
Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to watch someone else do it. Give your new teachers the opportunity to shadow a fellow educator for a day before they start working with children. This will give them time to ask questions they didn’t have before and develop ideas on how to enhance their own classroom instruction.
Host a welcome gathering
Within the first few weeks of a new teacher orientation, be sure to plan a welcome gathering to introduce new hires to your entire staff and give them a chance to acquaint themselves with their new colleagues.
Assign staff mentors
Whether you’re training one new team member or several, performing onboarding tasks while completing your daily administrative duties is no small feat. Let your experienced staff help by assigning mentors to new teachers. This will not only build camaraderie among your educators, but it will also give new hires a dedicated person to go to for quick questions and advice.
Set up frequent check-ins
As new teachers get more comfortable in their roles, it’s important to schedule routine one-on-one check-ins to help make the transition easier for them. You can use this time to discuss things that are going well, address areas of improvement you see, answer questions they have, or talk about their career goals and how you can support their growth.
Help new staff connect with families
Connecting new teachers with the families in your program is another great way to help them get comfortable early on. Send a message to families introducing them to your new staff or share a “new teacher spotlight” in your school’s newsletter or social media page.
New teacher orientation checklist
Children aren’t the only ones who have new-school jitters. It’s common for educators to be anxious or nervous as they get ready to start at a new childcare center. As the director, it’s important that you get your educators acclimated and comfortable before the year starts. Orientation is an ideal way to accomplish this. When thoughtfully planned, not only does this help welcome new teachers, but it also creates the opportunity to strengthen morale and build camaraderie among your staff.
When preparing for an orientation day, ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I impress my staff and affirm their decision to join our school?
- How can I help my employees understand the center and our operations?
- How can I ensure that my employees understand their role and how they contribute to the school?
- How can I make orientation a shared experience between new and existing teachers?
Your answers to these questions can help you build and design an orientation agenda that helps you introduce and integrate your new employees. It can include completing key paperwork, meeting their colleagues, getting situated with technology, setting up their classrooms, and more.
When building your agenda, be strategic with how you lay out the schedule. Orientation is meant to be informative, not draining. When done right, it can help build excitement surrounding the new school year. Make sure you include breaks and activities to keep your teachers engaged and interested.
If you need help figuring out how to structure your new teacher orientation agenda and what to include, you can use this sample to guide you through creating your own:
- 9:00 am: Introductions and icebreaker
- 9:30 am: Review employee information (includes policies, procedures, and paperwork)
- 10:30 am: Break
- 10:45 am: Technology orientation
- 11:45 am: Center tour
- 12:00 pm: Lunch
- 1:00 pm: Team building activity
- 2:00 pm: Meet with mentors
- 3:00 pm: Working session
Introductions and icebreaker
Orientation introductions don’t need to be lengthy, but allow everyone the opportunity to share basic information about themselves and their teaching experience. Ask the group to share their name, where they’re from, how many years they’ve been in education, and what they’re most looking forward to in the upcoming school year.
Icebreakers go a step beyond the typical introduction. Their purpose is to take a group of strangers and help them get acclimated and “warm up” to each other. Icebreakers encourage your employees to relax and actively participate throughout the rest of the orientation program. Icebreakers can be as simple as answering a question or can be a more involved activity.
Review employee information
An orientation session is a great time to go over the information your new employees need to integrate into their roles as teachers in your center. Use this time to have them complete any last-minute paperwork (such as I-9 or W-4 forms, benefit paperwork, and direct deposit forms), review the employee handbook, and go over your center’s policies and procedures.
There is usually a bit of a learning curve associated with any new technology. Schedule time to help your new hires with setting up computers and getting familiar with your center’s technology. If necessary, guide them through using office equipment, such as making internal and external calls or using the printer or video conferencing tools. If your center uses an app such as brightwheel, it’s helpful to hold an introductory training session to get teachers set up with an account and understand how to use basic features to communicate with families and save time.
Your center tour doesn’t have to be elaborate. You also don’t have to show them every nook in the building. Stick to the main areas and the areas they’ll visit most often. During your tour, make sure you show them the classrooms, staff or meeting rooms, emergency exits, and supply closets.
Team building activity
You can’t expect your new employees to have developed a strong bond after spending just a few hours together. However, scheduling a team building activity can help set the foundation for future bonding. Team building activities are meant to compel your new hires to work together while prioritizing communication and cooperation.
Meet with mentors
Coaching and mentoring in early childhood education programs can support your employees’ self-value and confidence, boost collaboration, and encourage consistent productivity. Consider assigning a returning teacher to each new hire to mentor them during their first several months on the job. During orientation, allow each group to go off on their own for a question-and-answer session. This gives them time to start forming a working relationship before the school year starts.
At the end of your orientation program, schedule a working session that gives your new hires some free time to explore and get familiar with their space. Offer this time as an opportunity for them to come to you with any additional questions or concerns they may have after the orientation program. Attending a day-long meeting can be draining, so allow time for your teachers to get organized, decompress, and start setting up their classrooms.
Help your new staff feel supported and prepared for their new role by ensuring your new teacher orientation process is comprehensive, informative, and effective. This will not only motivate new teachers to achieve more, but it will also ease their anxieties about starting a new role and help make the school year as impactful as possible.