By Rob Mangel
The beginning of every school year is inherently chaotic and always a new adventure. This year in particular will undoubtedly pose new challenges as we return to more fully populated school buildings and workplaces. As educators in our first few years of school employment this new year might bring more nerves than we expect, but not do not fear! Read on for some advice from more veteran staff members about how to make the beginning of this school year as seamless as possible.
Take the time to get to know the staff in your workplace. They will be your strongest support system and biggest cheerleaders.
School buildings and workplaces are deeply interconnected spaces where we need to trust and rely on each other. One of the best ways to build these relationships is to introduce yourself early and often to your colleagues throughout the building. During the course of this relationship building you’ll be able to learn more about where you’re working and the folks you work with. These relationships will prove invaluable as you move through the year. Your colleagues will be able to offer you resources, encouragement and answers to your questions that you might not find otherwise.
Learn about the resources available to you and the people who can help you find them.
As newer staff members, we spend huge parts of our days just trying to keep up with the tasks assigned to us. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year. Our days are filled with dozens of things that we need to do. As a result, we sometimes are unable consult all the professional resources that are available to us. But we must make time to learn about all of these resources. We can use them to improve our practice and more effectively do our jobs. One of the key pieces of discovering these resources is knowing whom to ask. Do not be afraid to rely on the folks you’ve started to build relationships with.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you have questions. Find the folks who might have some answers and ask.
Of all the advice we have to offer, this one might be the most relevant on a day-to-day basis. The expectation that we be perfect during our first few days on a new job is unfair to us and the students we serve. No matter what our educational and professional backgrounds there will be things we don’t know about our schools and students. Admitting there are things we don’t know is the first step toward becoming better at our jobs. As psychologist and professor Adam Grant notes “If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
Identifying areas for professional self-improvement improve is key, but the next step is to find the people who will be able to help us learn. The more you get to know your colleagues, the more you can reach out with your questions. This piece of advice can, and should, also be taught to our students. If we can help them ask questions, they will also learn more!
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of pieces of advice to start the school year, they are some of the most important. Getting to know your colleagues will enable you to feel comfortable in your workplace more quickly, and to move seamlessly through the school year.
Robert Mangel is a social studies teacher at Linden High School and vice president of the Linden Education Association. He is also a member of the NJEA Early Career Network leadership team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.