It is the beginning of the year for many schools around the world. Even though we have different start dates, we all have one thing in common-Orientation! Orientation for staff and for students, we all need to find our north in the first few weeks of the academic year. So here is to orienting to the North!
As a math teacher, I have always found it easy to teach students how to find the North, a necessary skill for mastering trigonometry. But when it comes to the orientation week at the beginning of the year, the North is the most challenging alignment to achieve. It is probably the most important building block for establishing a strong foundation of the academic year. A lot of thought needs to go into the planning for staff and student orientation.
As a pedagogical leader, here are a few strategies that have helped me ensure both the students and staff feel settled and empowered to start the year.
For staff orientation
- Make sure the time is planned effectively allowing ‘me time’ for new staff as well as for returning staff. Loading up a schedule with ‘to-dos’ or multiple meetings does not help, it leaves everyone confused and stressed as they are still getting their bearing right-to the North!
- North it is, the direction has to be clear. The objective should be made very clear-to empower staff. Make sure everyone has access to resources; create cheat sheets as no one has the time or the inclination to read through massive amounts of text. A teacher-ready toolkit is a great idea to give direction to the staff.
- The compass should always point to the North! Orienting is also aligning with the philosophy, culture and values of an organisation. Keep time to get to know the staff and allow them to get to know everyone. Team building activities help new and returning staff to reinforce the common values and share the culture of an organisation without feeling the pressure of having to learn or adapt to something new.
For student orientation
- The first week of school should be focused on student wellbeing. The North star is student wellbeing! Make sure all your plans have the star shining bright-wellbeing. New students should be assigned a buddy, returning students must get enough opportunities to feel excited for starting the new year. Afterall learning is an emotional experience.
- Equip students with necessary resources, logins, passwords, library, text, lockers, planners…and the list goes on. Hence prioritise and scaffold the delivery of these logistical items. Once done, students will feel settled to focus on academics. A strong pastoral care programme should be in place to take care of all of this.
- Rights and responsibilites should be clearly explained to students in the first week. Next step is to lay out the behaviour expectations-academic as well as social emotional. Activities to reinforce and teach life-skills should be integrated into lessons for the first week. Do not start teaching content in the first week, you are forcing your compass south, it is a lost cause.
If you notice I have kept the strategies limited to three pointers only. The reason being, I am trying to practice what I preach-keeping it oriented to North, keeping it simple, keeping it in bit-size chunks, easy to take-in and understand. Keep it simple, keep it great for the orientation week for staff and students. Upwards and Northwards!