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The first moments

Jen Hudson Life in the Classroom, Mentoring

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Ahhhhhh April. The Palo Verdes are blooming, allergy medicine is sold out at both CVS and Walgreens, Promposals are seemingly happening everywhere. Spring has sprung in Arizona.

April is the time when teacher’s thoughts turn to that of AZMerit and, simultaneously, the ever elusive next year. Planning and thinking about next year seems to creep up sooner and sooner every year, but this year, in particular, my brain has been fixated on July.

You see, July is when I get to meet my next batch of beginning teachers. Some, fresh out of college undergraduate programs, others excited and willing from the professional world. The one commonality they all share? They don’t know what they don’t know. Not only are they starting their careers as teachers, but they are also beginning their careers (I hope) with my district.

How these teachers are welcomed in July has become the focus of my Spring Fever this April. I expressed my desire to hone my time with my teachers with a member of my Professional Learning Network and she suggested the book “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” to me. Then, at the suggestion of AZK12 Center Homeroom’s article  Make the Most of Your Commute: 8 Tips for Teachers, I downloaded the audiobook. Two birds, one stone, am I right?

One of the stories that Chip and Dan Heath brilliantly illustrate in “The Power of Moments” is the onboarding process of John Deere in a province in China.  Soon after an employee is hired, they receive a letter in the mail from another employee in the department in which they will be working. The letter welcomes them and outlines the first-day specifics: what to wear, where to park, what the first day will look like, and what to expect. Then on that first day, they are welcomed in the parking lot by that same person who wrote them the letter who then shows the new employee a flat-screen TV with their name and “welcome” on it. Instead of walking around the office and being introduced to every person in every department, there’s a banner outside their desk announcing the new employee and people come to introduce themselves to the new employee. The boss takes the new employee out to lunch and there’s a package on the new employee’s desk that outlines the history, aims, and mission of the company. In other words, “It was an experience that made the employee feel like they belonged and the work they did matter[s] and that people were paying attention to them.”

Isn’t that all any of us want in our jobs? To feel like we belong, that the work we do matters and that people are paying attention to us? When we are unhappy with our job, chances are it’s for one of those reasons.

Those first few days, when teachers are clamoring to just get time in their classroom, we have to be cognizant of the need to balance onboarding and community creation. Schoolwide programs and technology implementation tools are crucial to teachers and schools having a successful start, don’t get me wrong. However, people should always come before programs.  But people aren’t going to buy into programs unless “precious moments” have given them the chance to commit to the culture and priorities of the school first.

What can we take from that as we welcome new teachers to our district and campuses? How can we, in the words of the Heath brothers, be the architect of “moments that matter”?

  • Have someone reach out before the first day to alleviate some of those first-day jitters
  • Details matter; what a difference the parking lot vs. the lobby makes
  • Welcome with fanfare, be it a name on a projector, a one on one lunch, a gift to welcome them, or even a ribbon on a door alerting staff members to stop by and say hi to the new staff member

How does your school or district welcome new employees and teachers?  How has your school balanced the need to ‘onboard’ vs. the desire to create a community?  How have you been welcomed to a new site that was a “moment that mattered”?

 

I always knew I was going to be a teacher; from assigning neighborhood kids homework during the summer to reading with a flashlight under the covers, school and learning have always been something I have loved. Phoenix born and raised, I attended Northern Arizona University and received my undergraduate degree in English Education. While at NAU, I received the Golden Axe Award and was lucky enough to be the President of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education. After college, I spent ten years at Explorer Middle School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, where I taught 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts. I wanted to push my instruction and my students’ learning, so I decided to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, which was completed in 2010. This desire to do more for my students continued through 2013 when I was named Arizona English Teachers’ Association’s Teacher of Excellence and received my National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence. This desire to learn and improve my practice also includes becoming a Master Teacher in 2017. In the 2019 school year, I will be a Mentor Teacher for first and second-year teachers in grades 7-12 in PVUSD and am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with my new teachers. On a personal level, I still love to read (though the flashlight has been replaced with a Kindle). Most of my time is spent with my husband, Chris, my toddler, Oliver, and our pitbull-dachshund mix, Kipton. I love all things Sun Devil football and am known to binge watch 90s and early 2000 sitcoms much too often.

  • Jaime Festa-Daigle

    I just had a conversation with a veteran teacher who has been teaching with us two years. He shared with me that in his first week he didn’t have any interaction with an administrator and has only rarely spoken with an administrator since then. The desire to create community has to be at the forefront if school is going to be a family.

    • Jen Hudson

      That breaks my heart. For members of a school community to all be on the proverbial ‘same page’, they all have to feel like they belong. That definitely starts at the top!