When I was the New Kid on Staff

Author: Gretchen Huesmann

Being a Newcomer

The petite woman pointed to an empty corner cupboard, “You can store your materials up there.”

Shifting a box of supplies from one hip to the other, I stared at the adjacent shelves bursting with her educational materials.

The teacher answered my questioning gaze, “Well I can’t reach that one.”

New Kid

My real concern remained unspoken. How would my supplies fit in the tiny space?

After a moment, I said, “It will be fine.” After all, I had shared a classroom before. Plus, I was the new kid on staff.

Joining a new organization can be exciting, providing a fresh start, and hopefully, new friends. Yet, being a newcomer on an educational team also has its drawbacks. My teaching career has included eight different schools and districts, generating a few lessons along the way.

Before Teaching at a New School, Be Ready to Learn
All education systems have distinct procedures for hiring, training, and communicating. Each establishes unique standards for employees and students, not to mention technology. Read employee handbooks carefully, keeping an eye out for differences, especially emergency procedures.

At one school, three years passed before I felt comfortable with their grading system. Even if you’re an experienced teacher, expect training in many areas.

Find Helpers
When my daughter began teaching, the school assigned her a mentor, a standard procedure in her area. A good mentor provides encouragement and a go-to person for the countless questions bound to arise the first year.

Not all schools utilize mentors. Before cell phones, I once recall staring at my new desk phone in dismay. The numerous buttons rivaled today’s computer keyboards. A co-worker down the hall helped me, then waved away my vigorous thanks and said, “I was new last year.”

I made a mental note to reach out to newcomers in the future.

Expect Cultural Changes
Even in the same country, cultural and climate differences exist. For example, in some schools, their country’s pledge is recited daily. In others, this practice doesn’t exist.

Similarly, growing up in the middle part of the United States, we enjoyed snowy recesses, but rain always meant indoor play. Imagine my surprise when teaching in Washington state, where children hauled snow and rain gear to school.

Be Patient with Others
Several times I joined faculties filled with senior staff. Although many proved helpful and kind, some behaviors indicated they had forgotten what it was like to be new. On one professional development day, I witnessed small groups of teachers heading to lunch. My school-girl emotions kicked in, reviving high school insecurities.

Before long, I heard these same co-workers share stories of the past, recounting memories and experiences from their early years of teaching. I remember thinking, they have history together. They had shared life’s joys and sorrows. In time, new memories were made which included me.

Build Trust
Likewise, allow time for your co-workers to get to know you before suggesting changes. Show interest in their techniques and ideas before adding your own. Refrain from sharing about your old school unless invited to do so. A listening and learning mindset will ease the transition and build trust.

Empathy for Students
Ultimately, the greatest lesson learned from being the new kid included a deeper empathy for my new students each year. They, too, must adjust to procedures, classroom culture, and peer groups. They experience similar insecurities, need to build trust, and allow time to create memories.

Show empathy and understanding as students adapt. Be patient with your co-workers and yourself and you will soon feel at home in your new surroundings. For more on coworker relationships, read How Teachers Can Handle Difficult Co-Workers.

About the Author

Gretchen Huesmann is a teacher, speaker, and award-winning author. She has taught in seven U.S. states for over three decades. When not in the classroom, Gretchen enjoys mentoring and encouraging educators. She is a member of Word Weavers International and enjoys writing non-fiction for adults and children’s fiction. She and her husband of 33 years have raised 4 children and reside in Florida.
Scroll to Top