There’s nothing quite like the excitement of new teachers heading to their schools for the first workday. But it can also be challenging for first-year teachers to navigate a new school and form relationships with the staff.
To welcome new staff to their schools, mentor teachers can hold a new teacher orientation session. This is a great opportunity to share school-based information that isn’t covered in a district-wide new teacher training – and to help new teachers start to develop relationships with each other and their mentors.
If you’re new to mentoring, you might be wondering how to get started, so I’m sharing a few tips for planning a successful school-based new teacher orientation.
Tip 1: Make new teachers feel welcome
I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed at my first staff meeting. But it helped that I’d been to an orientation at the school and recognized some friendly faces in the crowd.
An orientation is a perfect opportunity to help new teachers acclimate to the school in a smaller, more relaxed setting before the official workdays begin. And it’s a great bonding experience so they come into that first work week feeling like they already belong.
Relationships are so important for new teacher success that if you’re short on time for your new teacher orientation, this is where I’d recommend focusing your efforts.
Here are a few ways to welcome staff into the school family during a new teacher orientation:
- plan fun icebreaker games to fight those first-day jitters
- create welcome baskets with school supplies and school swag (like staff t-shirts or lanyards)
- provide snacks and water
- take them to lunch on the school
- provide one-on-one time with their mentor teachers
- invite admin, instructional coaches, specials teachers, and other staff to join for a casual meet and greet
I also recommend reaching out to personally invite new teachers to the orientation session (and giving them a heads-up on the dress code, too).
Tip 2: Prioritize information to share
Nobody wants to sit through a reading of the staff handbook! Your district likely held training sessions for all the new teachers, so they may already be on information overload. And they’ll likely have lots of meetings and PD the week before school starts as well.
I like to start by focusing on school-specific information they’ll need to know as they’re setting up their rooms, like:
- how to access the building (hours, alarms, badges)
- front office staff names and contact information
- where to locate items needed for classroom set up like the copier, laminator, office supplies, cleaning supplies, and bulletin board paper
- school policies/expectations about classroom set up (if there are any)
- locations of staff bathrooms, workroom, mailboxes
- items that the school will provide for students, like classroom library books and math manipulatives (so that teachers know what they do and don’t need to buy)
Information about academics, behavior, and schedules can wait until a second orientation session later in the day/week or meetings with instructional coaches and teams. If you do want to cover it all in one sitting, I would definitely incorporate breaks and share links or handouts for the material you’re covering.
I think it’s also nice to give first-year teachers an idea of what to expect for the rest of the teacher workdays before school begins (i.e., meetings, meals provided by the school or PTA, staff photos, etc.).
Tip 3: Go on a school tour
I love breaking up an orientation session with some movement! It’s helpful to take new teachers on a quick school tour to point out locations of specialists’ rooms, the copy room, staff mailboxes, etc. You can plan to take everyone at once or ask mentor teachers to take their mentees. You might also go outside to show them recess locations and parking, and explain arrival/dismissal.
If you want to gamify it, you can turn the school tour into a scavenger hunt or escape room.
Tip 4: Plan the schedule carefully
As a first-year teacher on my first workday, all I wanted was time in my classroom. Sitting through a day-long meeting is draining and zaps that new job excitement!
When you plan the orientation schedule, I recommend including a block of time during/after the orientation for teachers to work in their rooms. Some new teachers may just need the time to decompress, while others will be ready to start moving furniture.
Other key activities to schedule in your orientation include mentor-mentee time, laptop pickup/setup, meeting front office staff and administration, and time for questions. And of course, lunch!
New teachers have so many questions specific to their schools, not to mention policies to learn and people to meet! Hosting an orientation for new teachers and their mentors before the school year begins is an ideal way to welcome them to your school and help set them up for success.
Want to save some time planning your orientation session? You can find my new teacher orientation templates here.