Jenith Mishne, a recent Tech & Learning leadership award winner, offers advice on effective onboarding and orientation for teachers and school staff.
According to Jenith Mishne, Ed. D., the school onboarding and orientation process for teachers and employees varies from minimal to nonexistent in many districts.
“‘Here’s your keys,’ it’s like a lot of the time. This is your classroom. “Best wishes,” says Mishne, Director of Educational Technology at Newport-Mesa USD in California.
Mishne has worked with other directors in her district to update the onboarding and orientation process at Newport-Mesa, which has 19,000 students and 2,000 employees. She received the Innovative Technology Director award at a recent Tech & Learning Regional Leadership Summit(opens in new tab) in California for these and other efforts in edtech leadership over the years.
Mishne worked as a chef with her own catering company in the 1990s, but an injury prevented her from continuing in the culinary field. She was inspired to become a teacher after seeing Dangerous Minds, and she quickly became fascinated with technology and the impact it could have on students. She eventually advanced her career in edtech leadership.
Mishne discusses her district’s onboarding and orientation initiatives, as well as advice for other school leaders.
The Right Onboarding Process Can Reduce Teacher Turnover and Stress
Given the difficulty that many schools are having with staffing, it is critical that school employees feel supported and understand what is expected of them from the start. “People are quick to leave,” Mishne observes. “‘You didn’t hire me for this. This isn’t what I’m looking for.”
Mishne has created a new teacher orientation as part of these efforts. Teachers are met in person by school staff, but they also have access to self-paced PD modules. “That gives them access to walk through activities in all areas, even if it’s as simple as ‘How do I use the phone?'” she explains. The goal is to make the transition to working for the district as easy as possible.
“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 is stressful,” she says. “So we try to reduce that stress by assisting that teacher and ensuring that they have all of the tools and materials that they require to be successful.”
Pay Teachers to Arrive Before School Starts
Supporting new employees is a year-round requirement because teachers and other employees frequently start in the middle of the year. Nonetheless, the summer before school starts is a great time to get teachers and other staff acclimated to your district, according to Mishne. “It’s really critical in August or depending on when you start school to pay new teachers and get them there,” she says.
Geographically, Newport-Mesa is a large district with dozens of schools. As part of the orientation, staff will board a bus and tour the district’s various buildings. “People simply don’t know where all of our schools are,” she says.
HR staff and other school leaders also go over healthcare and other benefits with new hires to ensure everyone is aware of the services available. “Going to a corporate job and going through a few days of orientation is not unusual,” Mishne says. “However, for some reason, it hasn’t been the norm in public education.”
Orientation and Onboarding for Parents and Students
Mishne believes that the conversation about onboarding and orientation should not end with employees. “If you think about all of the digital platforms that our students and parents use, parent orientation is another area of great need, at least in our district,” she says.
“I’ve been pushing for parent orientations at schools during those first few days when kids come in for their schedules, or maybe some of their books, and things like that. “Being able to show parents, ‘We use Schoology, and this is how students log in.'”
She claims that while this is a task that teachers may not have time for, it is becoming increasingly important for districts to consider.