The Art of Welcome and Induction of New Staff

After the busyness of first term, opportunities exist to move beyond the “nuts and bolts” issues of orientation, to a deeper induction of new staff into “why we do what we do”.

The start of a school year is a particularly frantic one for all staff in our schools.  Without doubt the busyness and intensity is multiplied when a staff member is new to the community. They are experiencing a very new environment, where many things are done according to a particular structure, culture and tradition that some would say can only be fully understood by actually living the experience (“doing the hard yards”)  While there is some truth in this, we also know that school leadership can’t rely on this “experiential learning” model if it leaves to chance a grounding in those essentials that allow staff to give of their best from the very start. That’s why good orientation processes will focus as a priority on what staff most need to know to feel supported from Day 1. 

In a similar way Induction, which moves a step beyond the nuts and bolts issues of orientation, is a critical process in the early weeks of welcoming a new staff member.  Rather than the “what we do” of orientation, induction seeks to answer the “why we do, what we do” question and serves to give newcomers an early appreciation of the values and spirit that underpins the community.

Within our EREA schools, the Core Formation Program, A Call to Mission – Galilee, is a significant part of the induction process for new staff.  However, its focus is at a macro-level and exists to complement, not substitute for, the formative induction practices which are so important at the local school level.  These internal induction practices differ from school to school, and given that the context of each school is different, in lots of ways it is appropriate that the induction process reflects that unique context. At the same time, there is much we can learn from each other, particularly given our common founding story, in sharing the great formative induction practices that may easily be replicated across our diverse range of schools.  So, for what it’s worth, here are ten internal induction practices, in no particular order, that have attracted my attention in recent years and received positive comment from staff who, as a new community member, have experienced different ones. There may be something here that captures your interest.

  • Afternoon session with four presenters, comprising former respected staff member, former student, long associated parent, current senior student – each sharing what they believe to be at the heart of the school’s spirit and purpose. Opportunity for dialogue after presentation. (This could be done as a series of gatherings)
  • School campus walk – Each new staff member is accompanied by a senior staff member and senior student to tour the College Campus (not unlike on Open day for parents) but with emphasis on visiting those sites eg statues, honour boards, significantly named buildings, archives room, special banners or displays; that reveal something of the spirit, tradition and culture of the school
  • A walk through the annual calendar – new staff are introduced to those special, extra-ordinary events on the annual calendar that are conducted to celebrate “who we are” as a school eg Edmund Rice Feast Day, Opening School Assembly, Anzac Day etc, and the occasion, and any activities associated with the event, are explained and discussed
  • Companion Accompaniment – as an alternative to an “elder mentoring” program, each new staff member is aligned with a person who was new the previous year or very recently.This often enable the accompanying person to have greater awareness and sensitivity to the particular needs and concerns of the newcomer.
  • Term gatherings of new staff for two-way learning – opportunity for new staff to gather, to briefly hear something that helps further their understanding, eg some key aspects of the Edmund Rice Icon, an aspect of Edmunds life, the vision of a significant school leader etc, and then to have the chance to provide ongoing feedback on their personal observations as a “fresh set of eyes” in the school.
  • Introducing “local heroes” - Invite a person who has been a significant part of community life (parents. staff and particularly Christian Brothers) to a monthly shared lunch with new staff
  • Interview Quiz – provide new staff member with a series of questions (8-10) which they are, over a given period of time, to gain responses from at least three different sector community members eg leadership, teaching, support, students, parents.Bring these responses to a gathering for shared dialogue. An exemplar question could be “What is the school motto and how do you see it being given real expression?”
  • Awareness Walk – Assign new staff a particular section of the school, eg reception area, to conduct a visuals audit, noting what they see publically displayed and featured about the school. Bring back to a shared discussion.
  • Website Browse – Invite new staff to browse the website and key school documents, eg Charter, in order to formulate a way of responding to a parent who might ask them what the priorities of the school are? Bring to a gathering and discuss.
  • Question Box – Invite new staff to formulate questions that arise during their first year and where appropriate bring these to a monthly staff gathering to invite responses. May help answer things for others on staff as well.
(Mark McGlaughlin, Director of Formation) 

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