Well, I’m officially one month into my new position as Director of Technology and Personalized Learning in the Verona Area School District! I am one of many educators making a move this summer to a new position and/or district. It seems this has become the norm today for schools and districts, watching teachers and administrators flow in and out. There have been many studies done about why education is seeing such unstable employment. But really when it comes down to it, every person who makes a move is doing it for extremely personal reasons. There is no magical easy button to press to retain educational staff.
Districts have been scrambling to put energy into retention in an effort to diminish the amount of hiring that needs to be done. And who can blame them? Hiring is extremely costly, both in dollars and in time. There are so many outcomes. You can go through a whole hiring process, unable to find a suitable candidate, and need to start over, or worse, not fill the position. You can find an amazing person, only to have them leave the following year (or sooner!). You can hire someone and personalities don’t mesh. And the list goes on.
But without that easy button, as there are just too many reasons why staff choose a change, more efforts have recently been put into recruitment of new staff. Efforts to find the best person for each position have taken a multitude of efforts, whether it be the best salary and benefits package or advertisement of a district’s accolades or even bonuses. Districts and personnel want to find the right fit as quickly as possible, all for the single reason why we work in education: the kids.
Whether you are someone making a big change this next school year or not, here are some things to think about to make everyone’s transition smooth and bring us together in our mission to serve our nation’s future. Each section gives both the new hire and existing staff something to think about.
1. Change your mindset
New Staff: Be prepared to walk in and learn. No matter how long you’ve been doing this job or working in a district, you will not know everything. Each job, school, and district have their own culture and climate, rules, staff, and history. It’s crucial that you set yourself up with a growth mindset from day one. You have a wealth of knowledge you are bringing with you, but until you know how that fits (or if it fits), learn, ask, and listen
Suggestion for current staff: Have a person (or two) who will mentor all of your new employees. Handing over a manual or making them learn as they go will never be better than in person mentoring. This is an added “cost” but in reality will help in the long run. Feeling connected to someone can make employees stay longer, learn faster, and work harder. Because of this, even those who’ve been in the business for a long time can benefit from a mentor!
2. Make new friends, but keep the old
New Staff: Some of you are leaving jobs where you have long lasting friendships. Those will be crucial to your success in a new position! These friends and/or former colleagues used to be your support and the people you innovated with every single day. They still hold a great value to your professional journey, and with technology, are only a few clicks away. Don’t forget about them when you are feeling alone or you need advice or you still want to create and innovate with them. They are still part of who you are.
But remember that you will meet new people and make new friends. They will be integral to your success and journey as well. Embrace both, value both, invest in both.
Suggestion for current staff: You’ve probably lost some friends and colleagues from past school years that you are missing as well. This process can be difficult for all. Respect that all new staff members are coming into your school/district with friends and former colleagues that they’ve left, some painfully so. Understand some days might be tough for them (and you!). Listen if needed. Then invite them to events and gatherings, start a new project together, include them in conversations, and build relationships. It’s healthy for all as transitions are made to move forward.
3. Propel yourself forward with mistakes
New Staff: Let’s face it…you’ll make mistakes in your new job. Some might be because you didn’t know, or maybe your forgot, or maybe you want to try something new and out of the box. But inevitably you’ll mess up, stick your foot in your mouth, or embarrass yourself. Time to learn from your experiences, both good and bad. If you do this, you never really fail. Take these times as opportunities to improve and become a better version of yourself. Although you can’t have that moment back, you can use it to propel you.
Suggestion for current staff: While new staff have a lot to learn from you and your school/district, you also have things you can learn from them. Encourage risk taking, thinking outside of the box, and walking out of your comfort zone. Give new ideas a chance. And if things don’t work or they make a mistake, cut the newbie a little slack. Being new is hard and so is change. Failure, especially in a new setting, is rough. Help pick him/her off the ground, dust them off, and motivate them to start again.
Bonus for new and current staff
The start of a new year is refreshing for all – educators and students alike. You have an amazing opportunity as the new school year begins: Add to your tribe. These people are your professional family. Be on the look out for people you connect with. They are the ones who share your passion, work ethic, and goals. They inspire, challenge, and motivate you. Then, if you are lucky enough to find more tribe-mates, go be amazing together!
Best of luck to all educators who are taking on a new position this school year! I hope that it brings you new opportunities, challenges, learning and lots of happiness.
What other thoughts do you have for those making a change this school year? Post them below or reach out on Twitter – @amyarbogash!