Connecting With New Teachers

connecting-with-othersA couple of years ago, a second year teacher stopped by my office after school and asked if we could talk. The look on her face had me concerned so, of course, I welcomed her to have a seat. I thought she was going to share her concerns about student behavior or wanted help to solve a problem. Man, was I was wrong. What she said to me made a lasting impression…

As soon as she started to talk, tears started to flow from her eyes and she apologetically said, “I accepted a position in another district.” I shallowed hard because I was completely shocked. I felt blindsided, and immediately started to ask myself where we went wrong, where I went wrong as the principal. She said she needed a change, that she didn’t always feel supported or heard. Her comments were difficult to hear, but I appreciated her honesty. It was at the point that I vowed to myself to do everything within my control to prevent this from happening again under my watch as building principal.

One of our goals at Gahanna Lincoln High School is for every student, teacher, and parent to have a sense of belonging. It’s a lofty goal and we take it seriously. Losing that young, promising, and passionate teacher showed me that I, we, needed to do a better job of connecting with our new teachers. We hired 17 new teachers this school year; some with zero years of experience and a few with 4-6 years of experience. Nevertheless, I decided to meet with them once a month in an informal setting to simply give us an opportunity to connect, share, reflect, learn from each other.

It’s key to keep these meetings informal. There is no agenda, the teachers don’t have to prepare anything, and they aren’t assigned anything to do. We just talk. We first met in our Library Media Center in September, but decided together to meet at Panera, which is on our campus, for the rest of the year.It’s been amazing to hear their stories, their reflective thoughts about their craft, their suggestions on how we can get better, and to see how they support each other.

Admittedly, not all of them come each month and I’m fine with that. It’s simply an invitation to attend, not a mandate. I have asked a few questions to guide our discussion, but most of the time we go where the conversation takes us. Some of the questions asked are as follows:

*What has been the most successful thing you’ve done so far?
*How are you taking care of yourself physically?
*What do you do for fun?
*Have we lived up to what we promised you?
*What’s one thing we can do differently?
*What are you planning to change second semester?

Once I ask a question, I simply sit and listen. It’s great to hear their responses and how they build on each other’s comments. Before we concluded our most recent meeting, I asked, “Are these meetings helpful?” Following are some of their responses:

*“I think they are fun. I look forward to them each month.”
*”It’s good to see and talk with people outside your department. It’s good to learn from others.”
*”You make us feel like we are important to you.”
*”It’s good to hear what the other new teachers are thinking.”

I appreciate their time, their honestly, and their commitment to the GLHS Family! I can only imagine how much better we will be as we progress through the second half of this school year. If you have any ideas of how you connect with new teachers or suggestions to make this process better, please feel free to comment.

Be Great,


Photo credit:

3 thoughts on “Connecting With New Teachers

  1. Hey Dwight,

    I have a couple of thoughts about your post and want to offer a differing point of view. If a teacher doesn’t feel supported and they choose to leave because of that, obviously that is a concern. I commend you for your transparency that you have shown that there was a problem and that you are doing everything in your power to fix it, even though I know it is not systemic.

    The other thing that I thought about when reading your post is that some of the BEST schools have great educators leaving all of the time. These places almost become training grounds for great leadership that spreads out in other schools when those teachers leave. I remember my first school in the division that I am in now, was a place where people continuously left, but often into other positions within the school district of leadership. It has become known as a leadership training ground, and although teachers leave, it is still one of the highest regarded schools in the district by what they deliver in terms of learning for their students. They lose people every year, but they also attract really innovative and forward thinking teachers because they KNOW that this is school that will cultivate and push that. Losing people at a school is not always a bad thing; it is always dependent upon why they leave that makes a positive or negative.

    I was reminded of a quote that I have heard before on this very topic:

    “Sometimes we spend a lot of money and time to train people, only to see them leave. Worse though, is not training them, and they decide to stay.”

    Thanks for your post, your honesty, and your commitment to always doing what is best for your community. You live up to your email signature every time I read your work, and talk to you.

  2. Great article. As a teacher only a few years into my career, I wish I had the opportunity to connect and discuss what I do with my administrators on a more regular basis. Feedback, reflection, and support can really help make a teacher feel like they are on the right track to becoming the educator they hope to be! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *