Bringing new teachers and support staff into a school can give the energy boost it needs, or maintain the momentum of positive change that may have been built up over time. This is why induction programs matter so much.
Anthony Muhammad in his book, Transforming School Culture, identifies four groups of people within a school, one of which are the ‘Tweeners – people new to the school who are trying to work out where they fit into the school’s culture.
Essentially, if school leaders get it right with their induction programs, they can have a huge impact on moving the ‘Tweeners in the direction of the change required to move the school forward. If the opportunity is missed, some of the ‘Tweeners may be recruited by those in the school wishing to maintain the status quo.
The importance of the staff induction program, therefore, cannot be underestimated, as it is our best shot of mobilizing the new recruits in support of the change effort(s). Of course, ‘Tweeners may come on board later if the induction program is not great but it does become that bit harder to win them over if things have not got off to a great start.
So, how can school leaders maximize the impact that they have on their ‘Tweeners?
- Make sure that the induction program is well planned and mirrors the level of organisation and planning in your school. First impressions matter but they need to be backed up over time. Start as how you intend to, and will, carry-on.
- Plan an induction program around what your school values and can honestly back up. For example, if you introduce policies to new teachers during an induction and these policies are not followed on a day-to-day basis by existing staff, then ‘tweeners will hear comments such as, or similar to: “Admin say this but they do not really check.” What is included in an induction program must be genuinely.
- Provide induction before new staff arrive, when they arrive and for weeks after they arrive. Sustained focus on helping new teachers and support staff adapt to a new environment is key to winning them over.
- Include your ‘champions’ in the induction program to water the seeds of enthusiasm that new teachers’ possess.
- Make the induction program needs focused, so that you can get new teachers and support staff settled in quickly before getting them into the more challenging work ahead.
- Be honest with where things are not perfect and where there is room for improvement. In many ways this should mirror what has been said to a new member of staff during an interview. If the picture of the school painted at interview does not match what exists in reality, then new staff are disappointed. No-one likes unwanted surprises.
- Consider an induction for returning teachers and support staff to re-calibrate before moving-on the work of the next academic year.
- Continue to seek open feedback on how to make the induction program better.