We’re seeing some pretty extraordinary shifts in staffing this summer. News stories about “The Great Resignation” are popping up across the media, and schools are finding out about faculty departures far later than they usually do. With the hiring timeline disrupted, it’s time to re-examine if traditional onboarding practices still serve schools well.
In our pulse survey of Academic Leaders two weeks ago, 94% of respondents told us they were planning to hold meetings for new teachers. Traditionally, that means they’ll gather new teachers on campus with a handful of administrators, typically in one of the last days before opening meetings begin. If you’ve got teachers who were hired in April, they’ve likely worked through their curriculum, syllabi, and resources. By the time meetings open, they’re ready to go.
On the other hand, if you’re working with a teacher you just hired at the end of July, you have to pick your priorities--do you want that new teacher in five days of meetings when they’ve just seen the Chemistry textbook you use for the first time? Although the problem may be especially acute this year, it’s not going away: heads across the country tell us that despite their best efforts, their hiring seasons are both longer and less predictable.
To respond to the changing workforce and emerging patterns in employee behaviors, Academic Leaders need to build an on-boarding system that maximizes flexibility and aligns with the school’s priorities. The good news? You already have a system that can do this: your LMS. At One Schoolhouse, we’ve never had the luxury of bringing our teachers together. Instead, we’ve developed a highly intentional course in our LMS to introduce teachers to our practices and pedagogy, which we support with regular face-to-face meetings with our instructional designers and Director of Studies.
At the base of our approach to learning online is the conviction that schools are communities. We don’t think online learning should entirely replace what happens in a classroom, and we believe that offering some courses online allows schools to laser-focus their attention on the experiences that define the institution.
That’s what we believe about onboarding online, too. The time you bring your new faculty together as a group should focus on what’s essential to do in person, like relationship-building, mentorship, and pedagogy. Your LMS can be used to pass along content, like dismissal routines and duty rosters--the kinds of information that can be slow and tedious to review in person, and will be relevant to review later in the school year.
Moving onboarding processes online isn’t a fast process. If you’re looking to make this shift, you’ll want to go through this year’s new faculty orientation with an eye toward what you’ll change for Fall 2022. This summer, however, there are a few small things you can do (and you might already do them!) that can make a difference to the Fall 2021 cohort:
To your new faculty members, your opening meetings are a microcosm of what they can expect in the year to come. Spending the time together on what’s truly meaningful is an important way to convey your schools’ mission, vision, and values.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)