To reduce the number of teachers lost to other schools or professions, administrators at two schools initiated a series of programs to acclimate teachers new to the profession and to the school to help them feel part of the family. Included: Tips for helping new teachers feel at home.
This school year, neither St. Hilary School or St. Francis of Assisi School in Ohio needed to hire new teachers.
Although the two Roman Catholic schools have to compete with higher-paying public schools, the administrators work hard at helping new -- and experienced -- teachers feel part of the school family.
We get teachers both new to our school and new to the profession, and the ultimate objective is to keep them, said Dr. Pat Nugent, St. Hilarys principal. If Ive gone through the process of screening, interviewing, and hiring, I want them to stay.
We needed no new teachers this year, so it seems to be working, added Cynthia DAlessandro, an eighth grade teacher and the assistant principal for grades 5-8 at St. Francis of Assisi.
Nugent and DAlessandro gave a presentation on their approach to keeping new teachers at the Association of School Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference in March 2009.
St. Hilarys pays teachers about 85 percent of what the local public school district pays -- so the school needs to provide an attractive, positive atmosphere for teachers, Nugent said. A lot of its recruits are recent college graduates, although some come from public and other parochial schools. One thing I think is really sad is when we lose them out of the profession, she added.
Its all about the climate, making new teachers feel comfortable, part of the family, and letting them know they have things to contribute even though they are new to the field, DAlessandro told Education World. At another school at which DAlessandro was principal, faculty meetings were held in different classrooms so all teachers had a chance to share what positive or innovative programs they were using in the classroom. It gave them [new teachers] time to showcase, she said. You have to listen to their ideas and try to acknowledge when people doing something positive.
At its new teacher induction program, St. Hilarys focuses on topics beginning teachers often find challenging, such as getting through the first two weeks of school and conducting productive parent conferences. Weve found that the more structured a new teacher program is, the more successful it is, Nugent said.
But there is time for fun as well. The administrator plan some games to help new teachers feel comfortable, such as having someone say something positive about another staff member before tossing him or her a ball of yarn.
Helping new teachers feel at home also can be as simple as guiding them through the schools daily routine, showing them where supplies are kept, and taking the time to introduce them to people before and after meetings, DAlessandro noted. Its all about developing those relationships and helping them to feel welcome and important, she told Education World. You have to try every day to make them feel that way.