New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Resource person with a contact number and email address
April 26, 2013
In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country. What are all the must-haves then? Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.
Must-have #9: Resource person with a contact number and email address
There is so much going on for international school teachers in their first days, weeks and even months after starting at their new school. There is just as much going on for you before you arrive at your new host country. Being that there is so much to think about, one of the most important things that international schools can do for their new hires is set-up so that they have a resource person. New teachers actually need to have a contact person from the moment they get offered their contract (e.g. when they are still in their home country or their current placement). There are so many things going on in the new teacher’s mind, and that person needs somebody to talk to and ask questions to as the time gets closer and closer for his/her big move.
I remember getting the chance to talk over the phone (now it would be done via Skype I’m sure) with a contact person a few months before I moved. The contact person was another teacher at the school who had worked there a year already. In turn, it was fresh in her mind all the things that a new teacher would want to know about. I had my list of ‘new teacher’ questions ready to ask her. She was very real and forthcoming with her answers and it made me that much more comfortable, at the time, in my preparation for the big move which was in 2-3 months. Sure I got some information and answers from the director who hired me, but it is many times much better to get a different perspective on things. Also, there are some questions that you just might not ask a director (potentially your immediate supervisor). Once I got to the school, that initial ‘resource’ person then coordinated some new teacher orientation activities for me and the rest of the new teachers. But then, that was it. Also, I found out later that this contact person wasn’t actually getting paid any extra to do this; contacting and helping out the new teachers. A year later, they changed that and made sure to give an appropriate stipend for the teacher/s that take on this role.
Other international schools have this initial contact person, but then that teacher turns into an official mentor. The mentor’s role is definitely to be the contact person for this new teacher. Some mentorship programmes at international schools are quite helpful, others not so much. Sometimes there isn’t a good match between the mentor and the new teacher. That new teacher just might find a better, more compatible mentor in one of the teachers in their immediate team at the school. It is nice though to have another contact person, an official one, if the other teacher isn’t available. Basically anyone can be a mentor at a new school. Just because someone is your official mentor doesn’t mean that another teacher could turn into that role for you if you don’t think the first one is the best fit for you.
Not all international schools are that organized though with regards to assigning contact people to new staff. It could be that the school doesn’t even have a mentor programme. But the problems could also be related to an existing, ineffective mentor programme. For example, there is nothing worse than when you email your ‘resource’ and then that contact person never gets back to you. Maybe the person is just ignoring their ‘resource’ job or maybe the school just gave you the wrong email address (for example some teachers might not use their work email address very often or at all during the summer holiday). Either way, when you don’t have communication with your new school during these pre-move months, then you can easily start to get a bit anxious and nervous about whether you are preparing the best way you can. Some new teachers might even get “cold-feet” and call the whole thing off; it can happen! The main point is though: to keep the new teacher as comfortable and as most informed as possible!
So, does your international school assign a resource person with a contact number and email address to their newly hired teachers? Please share your experiences!