Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 0: Everything I Needed To Learn About My New Job I Learned in New Faculty And Staff Orientation.

Starting a new job is like freshmen year of college all over again. You don’t know how anything works, you don’t know who to go to for help and you don’t even know where the bathroom is.

I can confidently say that after two days of New Faculty And Staff Orientations that I still am not quite clear where the bathrooms are . . .

What did I expect from orientation? I predicted there would be a bunch of policy and procedural talk. Maybe someone would spend an hour teaching us how to check our e-mail which would digress into a rudimentary lesson on how to use an internet browser. Of course, you can’t forget the oh so fascinating human resources talk.

My expectations were of course tempered by my first new teacher orientation experience years ago which was a weeklong experience filled with lectures and presentations that I barely could stay awake through. At the end of the orientation, I had a folder full of information, which I stuck in my desk and did not look at again until I cleaned out my desk two years later when I left that job.

So how did the my recent orientation experience stack up? It felt like being in Prof. Barrett’s class at Northwestern when I was in grad school.

Prof. Barrett taught me curriculum, research and general music methods course. The content of what she taught was great but what was more powerful was the way that she taught. She demonstrated through her actions the teaching methods that she presented which was most powerful part of being her student.

The orientation didn’t through every single line of “A Guide For New Faculty and Staff,” “Faculty/Staff Manual” or the “Emergency Response Manual.” Instead, we spent time learning where to go for information, how to use technology to as a tool and who to go to for help. As teachers, our job is to facilitate learning, to give students the tools and skills to learn for themselves and it’s awesome to realize this isn’t something we preach about doing for children children, but it’s something we live.

Amongst the presentations were thoughts from veteran teachers and two pieces of advice stuck with me. The first was “ do not worry alone,” encouraging us as new staff members to share in all aspects of what they are going through. So much stress can be adverted simply by having a conversation, knowing that you’re not alone in your thoughts and that there are other people who can help you.

The second piece was that our school's “way” of doing business was not one specific way but a multiplicity of approaches. The idea that pluralism is strength is something I believe.  Embracing this idea speaks to a genuine focus on the idea of diversity and reflects a powerful approach to teaching embracing the differences between students as a way to enrich the educational experience. 

 . . . now if I can just find the bathrooms.  I mean I found the students ones but those toilets are so small and they usually frown on teachers using them. . .

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