Tag Archives: NewHires

Your Brain on a New Job



This post is for those starting a first international school gig, or those in a new position/country who could use a reminder about beginning again. Share this with your colleagues who may fall into those categories.

Arrival: Your brain as a large sieve

Arrival brain

You are holding onto only the basics, and letting the rest filter out, like through the holes of a (very) large sieve. You might be astonished at what you are unable to retain. At this arrival stage, you are discarding all but the most essential information so as not to clutter your mind. When a well-intentioned colleague offers tips on a restaurant they went to in a cool part of the city, your eyes glaze over; you have no idea where that is and can’t pronounce the name of the restaurant; you’ll never remember it. When a teammate mentions a unit coming up in January, you wonder if you will still be around then. An incredible amount of input is firing at you. You feel overwhelmed, like you are not keeping up. Doesn’t help that you probably are still living out of a suitcase to some extent. It’s not your fault, it’s totally normal, and it will get better!  

Settling In: Your brain as a medium sieve

Settling in brain

A couple of months in, you begin to recognize yourself again somewhat, though you are probably less organized than usual, and are still having to apologize for dropping the ball in situations when you normally wouldn’t. Your new living space is functional, if not yet beautiful. You’ve learned how to independently meet basic needs in your new location, such as getting groceries, submitting supplies requests, and saying hello/good-bye in the local language. You’ve got a number of new friends and colleagues whose company and support you are grateful for. You realize with relief that you are retaining more details – those metaphoric holes in your brain are narrowing. Your capacities are beginning to return from the chaos of the arrival, but your stamina may also be waning.

Second Semester: Your brain as a fine sieve

Second semester brain 

The background noise of life in your new place has quieted, and you are starting to shine at work. Your students’ faces, and even those of their parents, have become familiar. You know what makes your students tick, and can personalize your lessons to suit. You have established favourite spots in town to get a coffee, go for a run, get your hair cut. You’re already thinking ahead to what local souvenirs and gifts you want to bring back for friends and family this summer. You may even be inquiring about taking on additional roles at work for next year. When you get new information now, you are able to categorize and retain it appropriately.

By this time next year: A full sieve set

Next year’s brain

You’ll have an established set of sieves and will be able to determine and customize which to use in any given situation, expertly juggling between them and even anticipating in advance which to have ready. Hang in there – the adventure of a first year may feel overwhelming at times, but it will be over before you know it.

What are your tips to make it through the first year?

Technology Surveys for New Hires

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Since 2008, I have been working with groups of new hires. There is much stress and confusion when people are relocating to another country. I always try and provide the information new hires need to understand the technology culture at the school, and within the country.

Initially, I was simply doing Q and A, and creating FAQ documents. One year, I realized that I was missing a huge opportunity to do some data driven decision making. I began to develop a set of surveys.

Survey data helps to shape the professional development for orientation and possible configurations for IT systems. Additionally, the data aids in the team building process by identifying new people with higher level skills. These people can then immediately contribute at the level they should be contributing instead of being sidelined because they are new.

Meet Them Where They Are

Many schools are hesitant to do surveys because new hires have a tremendous amount of paperwork to complete. Schools often do not want to add any additional communication to an already very busy process.

I do understand this view point, however, new hires will not be overwhelmed if a technology survey is incorporated into an already required technology process.

In the spring, I recommend all schools setup and activate the email accounts for the new hires. The moment they sign in the first time, they are a captive audience. The first email they see in their inbox could be the technology survey. New hires usually like getting their new account in the spring, so they will not be irritated at the process.

If the school has setup social media for new hires, such as a Facebook Group, those accounts can also be used to share links to surveys.

Survey Platforms

The only important thing to remember when choosing a survey platform is that it must support branching. Another way to say that, is it must support “if-then-then-that” (ifttt). Therefore, email based surveys are to be completely avoided.

Branching allows people to skip questions that are not relevant to their experience. Branching prevents the survey from wasting their time.

For example, if my school uses PowerSchool, I might want to know if new hires have used PowerSchool. If they have, then I want to know more about their experience, if they have not then I want them to move on to another section.

Both Google Forms and Office 365 Forms support branching. Both of these free services also help tally and graph responses. Remember, saving time needs to be on both ends of the equation, and email will always be a mistake laden waste of time.

Open Ended Questions

Having long form paragraph style open ended questions seems like a very politically correct way to make a survey. However, these questions are very difficult to measure, and they are extremely time consuming.

I firmly believe these types of questions should be optional, and only at the end of sections with structured questions. For example, asking someone to rate their experience with Google Drive on a scale of 1-5 is a structured question. Following that with an optional opinion would be good use of an open ended question about Google Drive.

Check Multiple

Most survey systems allow people to check multiple options to answer a question. I find these question types to be the most useful for broad group planning; and hitting larger professional development targets.

Here is an example:

Assuming the participant response rate is high enough, I could use this single graph to align their most recent experience with the technology culture at my campus. Knowing the similarities and differences among these services is a requirement, but that happens to be a requirement for my profession :).

Choose the Best Statement

Using questions that direct participants to choose the best statement, or the most correct statement, allows for them to show a weakness or preference in a more positive context. For example, instead of asking someone to rate themselves on Apple computer proficiency, I can offer them these options:

Instantly, I know that 50% of this group can help support the other 50% in learning how to master Apple hardware and software. I can now go into the individual responses, find those 50% who are very confident, and ask them if they would be willing to help lead in the professional development. Instead of wasting their time, I am utilizing their skill set and asking them to lead.

Survey tools are easier than ever to access and use. Every year consider making surveys for new hires part of the process, and use the data to make decisions. You can evolve over ten years and have ten unique experiences; or you can repeat the same year ten times. I try and avoid the latter.