At the start of the new school year, many early learning programs welcome new staff members to their teams. This can bring both excitement and nerves, as the new team anticipates a fresh group dynamic and new ways of working together. In this article, we share some tips that directors and ECE leaders can use to extend a sincere welcome to new staff members and foster a sense of community right from the start.
The Importance of a Warm Welcome
Collaborative relationships among staff members contribute to a positive early learning environment. Children thrive in classrooms and programs in which staff members work as a cohesive team and demonstrate support and respect for one another. Welcoming both new and returning staff with care and warmth sets a positive tone and lays the groundwork for all to participate in cooperative working relationships throughout the school year and beyond.
In an article for Edutopia, educator and school district leader Matthew X. Joseph writes, “Getting to know the staff personally is crucial in building strong relationships and creating a positive working environment. Welcoming back teachers is not just a formality; it’s a significant opportunity for [supervisors] to demonstrate their support, appreciation, and commitment to the success of the teachers and the school community…A warm and enthusiastic welcome creates a supportive school culture where teachers feel appreciated and valued.”
Key Practices for Welcoming Staff Members
The following practices can be helpful in creating a warm welcome for new staff members at the start of the new school year, and any time a new person joins your teaching team.
1. Share First Day Information Ahead of Time
The first day can be nerve-racking, especially for a person starting a new job. As ECE leaders, we can help mitigate some of these first day jitters by providing helpful information ahead of time. That lets new employees know what to expect on the first day, while giving them a chance to prepare and ask questions if they have them.
An email sent about a week before the person’s first day is a great way to share information about logistics like parking, dress code, daily schedules, the program handbook, classroom information, and anything else you think might help the person to feel prepared going into their first day.
Including information about your program’s mission and values will help new staff members have an understanding of your school culture. You’ll want to start and finish the email with words of encouragement such as, “We’ve been looking forward to having you on our team!” or “We can’t wait to see you!” to reassure new team members that they are welcome.
2. Make Time for Introductions
Although first days can be busy, it is important to give each new staff member a tour of the program to ensure that they know their way around, and to introduce them to the children and the other teachers. You might have the new person arrive later in the morning on their first day so that everyone else will be there to greet them during the program tour. Being welcomed and meeting team members and children helps the new staff member to quickly feel like a part of the program’s community.
3. Provide Opportunities to Ask Questions
Starting a new job means getting a lot of information in a very short period of time. And in busy ECE classrooms, it can be tricky to find time throughout the day to ask questions. You can ensure that the new person is settling in well by scheduling a quick meeting at the end of their first week to answer any questions they might have.
4. Schedule Time to Get to Know Each Other
Although it can be hard to find time for meetings in ECE programs, carving out time to connect makes it possible to build relationships and foster a sense of community.
If you’re a teacher, invite the new team member to check-in over coffee at the beginning of the day or to sit together and chat while having lunch. If you’re a director or school leader, you might allocate time in the schedule for teachers to sit down together and chat with one another.
As an ECE leader it is important to establish individual relationships with each of your staff members. Ask about their interests, likes, and dislikes to get a sense of who they are, and invite them to brainstorm with you about ideas they have for the school and classroom. Not only are fresh ideas valuable for your program, but these conversations also let the new person know that their input is welcome and appreciated.