Induction Guidelines for ELT Staff
The importance of welcoming and integrating new teachers for
efficient school management
By Lucy Pollard
The last two articles have looked at selecting and recruiting new teachers. The view taken was that if you get your recruitment procedure right from the start, you're more likely to get teachers who fit the needs of your school and clients; and teachers who are more likely to commit to your school in the long term. The longer teachers stay, the easier the day-to-day running of the school becomes and the less often you need to recruit. This ultimately saves you money. Following in the same vein of getting the right teacher in the right job and getting them to stay, this article looks at what induction can contribute.
Induction comprises welcoming and integrating a new member of staff and is part of those vital first impressions. You might well ask why bother with induction. After all, you could just throw your teachers in at the deep end and see if they sink or swim. This would give you more time to deal with other matters and would give teachers a taste of things to come. This might even work for experienced teachers, for teachers who know your country and town well and for teachers who know your school's style and priorities. How many of those have you recruited? If you have recruited from abroad, or if you have taken on less-experienced teachers (even post-CELTA, teachers can be anxious about a new job), they will benefit from some sort of introduction to your school. This doesn't mean training them, it does mean going through how your school functions. Even experienced teachers will benefit from this input.
Concern at this stage is to give an introduction to the school and its particular features, not to the work of teaching itself. You want the newcomer to be an effective member of staff as quickly as possible. You should never take it for granted that a teacher will take up a new post easily and smoothly.
Consider, too, the fact that there is an existing unity in the school which is solid and well-formed. New members need to fit into this. So you need to cultivate the feeling that the new members of staff fit in and feel they belong.
We'll look at how to do this and how to minimise the time you spend with new teachers. The intended outcome is getting your new staff to fit in and feel like staying around.
AIMS OF INDUCTION
- to have the new employee(s) efficient as soon as possible
- to encourage the new employee to become committed to the organisation
- to reduce the likelihood of staff leaving quickly
- to familiarise the new employee with the job
- to quickly dispel the feeling of being out of place - teachers are professionals and want to be accepted by other professionals
- to familiarise them with rules, customs and procedures
You don't need to have a programme organised on military lines. It's important to have an induction programme that is coherent with your usual working practices. It should fit the characteristics of the school and the organisational context. It will also depend on the size of the school and the number of people arriving.
WHAT TO COVER
- Structure of the school
- Structure re management, admin staff, levels of classes
- Roles of management
- People who are there to help (formally and informally)
- Introduction to the principal
- Breakdown of what the job consists of and specific duties
- Language input
- If the teacher is new to the country, (s)he'll benefit from knowing some basics: buying food, asking for directions, etc.
- Show the newcomer around the building, give a map of the area.
- There may be a contract to sign, bank details to take, work permit to organise, etc.
- Social gathering
- Meal/night out together
On the first day, it's a good idea to cover, at least, the following:
- Organisational jargon
- Practical info - food, breaks, toilets, building layout etc.
- People info - who's who
- Health and safety info - emergency exits, fire extinguishers, first aid kit - not nice but essential!
The priority from the new employees' point of view will be to familiarise themselves with the immediate requirements of the job they are about to perform
You might choose to produce a handbook. If so, its layout and form is important. You should present the various strong points of the school. The layout should reflect your school's identity: is your school young, dynamic and open to change? or is your school well-established as a leader? The handbook should represent who you are. This is an exercise in internal marketing and communication.
Suggested areas to include:
- Welcome letter
- Brief history of the school
- Staff names and positions, areas of responsibility
- Working conditions, times etc
- Details of holidays, sick leave etc
- Staff appraisal system (if you have one)
- Details of any trial period
- Trade union representation
- Equal opportunities
This welcome file or staff induction manual will benefit newcomers as it is a readily available body of knowledge. Details will vary from school to school and many feel nothing complicated is needed.
You can consider various ways of organising your induction period. For example:
- presentations to the group of newcomers
- a meeting including a question and answer session
- visit of the school
- observations of lessons to get a feel for the image you portray
You could also think about making the induction interactive. Teachers can go on a treasure hunt with a list of questions to answer and things to find. Some examples are:
- Where are the attendance sheets kept?
- Who do you speak to if you need a new board pen? What other functions does this person have?
- Where are the upper-intermediate listening materials kept?
You can also give them a plan of the building with just office numbers, for example. They go around and fill in the names and functions of people. To do this, they'll need to introduce themselves and they'll have the opportunity to get to know their new colleagues. It's best to check beforehand whether colleagues will have the time for interruptions. If someone is likely to be too busy, it's best to include the details for that person on the building plan and introduce them formally later.
An interactive induction is more memorable for your new teachers. Think about how you teach and apply the same rules to induction. This way of going about it also frees you up to do other things.
You could delegate induction to an experienced teacher(s) to allow for some professional development and motivation. This can work if the school year is slow to start and you have some teachers who are down on teaching hours.
Another option you could consider is mentoring. An experienced teacher is designated to be on hand for questions and queries. This helps to motivate the current member of staff and helps the newcomer settle in. A mentoring system needs careful thought and planning, led by the management team. The chosen teacher should be clear about his/her role in the process.
It's a good idea to programme regular check-ins to help you identify any problems and solve them in a timely manner. This also allows the newcomer a chance to raise any questions. You could schedule meetings one month and then two months after the start date to ask how things are going.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Remember the newcomers know about teaching and are with you to fulfil a new post in a new school. Don't talk down to them.
Remember emotions about this time: they may be feeling nervous about the new job and/or country. This could lead to uncertainties about the decision made to take the job. So you want the first weeks to be as positive as possible without being false.
Different people adjust to new environments at different speeds, just like students who learn at different speeds. Don't underestimate the time taken for someone to settle in. Someone who appears comfortable initially may have delayed shock when it all becomes real. Be ready for it.
Remember the new teachers have expectations of you and the school. Think about their expectations and needs - of course, this should be realistic and may need modifying!
Problems often show up at the beginning but people don't pay attention to them. They think it will just go away. The more attention you pay to problems that arise, the better it is.
Successful integration depends on the time spent explaining the post and the systems used in your school. It's also an exercise in team-building.
I'd like to end by saying that induction is an essential phase in the success of a quality recruitment process. A selected candidate, even with a good knowledge of what the job entails, will need induction to ensure maximum effectiveness as quickly as possible in the school. The induction process can also serve as the starting point for the training and development of staff.
The tools and training made available to newcomers from the moment they arrive allow them to position themselves to integrate. This makes it easier to evaluate their performance and abilities from the start. You should be looking closely at performance throughout this time. Trial periods exist for a reason and should be used to their full.
There is no fix-all recipe that will work for everybody. According to age, situation, profile and personality each teacher will have different needs and expectations.
© Lucy Pollard 2005
Lucy Pollard has worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and Director of Studies for over 15 years. Her teaching experience is very varied: adults, English for specific purposes and English for academic purposes, as well as teenagers and young children. She has worked with multi-lingual classes in the UK and in various European countries. Lucy is available for teacher training and staff training in Western Europe, and further afield. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.