The school onboarding and orientation process for teachers and employees ranges from minimal to nonexistent in many districts, says Jenith Mishne, Ed. D.
“Many times, it’s like, ‘Here's your keys. Here's your classroom. Good luck,'” says Mishne, Director of Education Technology at Newport-Mesa USD in California.
Along with other directors in her district, Mishne has helped to lead efforts to update the onboarding and orientation process at Newport-Mesa, which has some 19,000 students and 2,000 employees. For these and other efforts over the years in edtech leadership, she was honored with the Innovative Technology Director award at a recent Tech & Learning Regional Leadership Summit (opens in new tab) in California.
In the 1990s, Mishne was a chef with her own catering company, but an injury prevented her from continuing to work in the culinary field. After seeing Dangerous Minds she was inspired to enter the teaching profession and quickly became fascinated with technology, and the impact it could have on students. Ultimately, she advanced her career in edtech leadership.
Mishne shares her district’s onboarding and orientation efforts, and offers tips for other school leaders.
The Right Onboarding Process Can Reduce Teacher Turnover and Stress
Given the difficulty many schools are having with staffing, it’s important to make sure school employees feel supported and know what’s expected of them from the moment they start. “People are quick to walk away,” Mishne says. “'This isn’t what you hired me for. This isn't what I want to do.'”
As part of these efforts, Mishne has designed a new teacher orientation. School staff meet with teachers in person but also provide access to self-paced PD modules. “That gives them access to walk through activities of all areas, even down to ‘How do I use the phone?’” she says. The goal is to help make the experience of starting work for the district as painless as possible.
“It's already stressful, whether you're new to teaching or not, going into a new school and starting fresh with kids, a new classroom and all of that,” she says. “So we try and minimize that stress by supporting that teacher and making sure that they have all the tools and the materials that they need to be successful.”
Pay Teachers to Arrive Before School Starts
Supporting new staff is a year-round requirement as teachers and other employees will frequently start mid-year. Even so, in the summer before school starts is a great opportunity to get teachers and other staff acclimated to your district, Mishne says. “In August or depending on when you start school, it's really critical to pay new teachers and get them there,” she says.
Newport-Mesa is a huge district geographically, with dozens of schools. As part of the orientation, staff will get on a bus and tour the various buildings within the district. “People just don't even know where all our schools are,” she says.
HR staff and other school leaders also talk through healthcare and other benefits for new hires, making sure everyone understands the services available. “It's not abnormal to go to a corporate job and go through a few days of orientation,” Mishne says. “But for some reason, in public education, it's just not been the norm.”
Orientation and Onboarding for Parents and Students
The conversation around onboarding and orientation should not end with employees, Mishne says. “Parent orientation is another area of great need, at least in our district, if you think about all of the digital platforms that we have students and parents use,” she says. “I've been pushing for parent orientations at schools in those first few days when kids are coming in for their schedules, or maybe some of their books, and things like that. Having the ability to show parents, ‘We use Schoology and here's how students log in.’”
She says this is a task that teachers don’t necessarily have time for yet it is something that is increasingly important for districts to consider.
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