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Oof. That first year.

I (Rob) very clearly remember the first day of the first year teaching. (Though, to be honest, I’ve tried my hardest to block it out.) I made it through relatively unscathed. My lesson plans went pretty well. The kids had their syllabi. The end-of-day bell rang, and I was quickly changing to get to cross country practice, a team I agreed to coach when I was offered my social studies job.

And then it hit me. “Oh, shoot. I have to do everything I did today again tomorrow. And the day after that. And, like, forever…” (There’s a very good chance I did not say “shoot,” but this is a family-friendly blog, dear reader.) I was “on stage” for eight hours. How could I possibly do this again – with high energy – every day?


Typically, I would get to school around 6:30a. I would teach my civics, world history, and US history courses, change, coach cross country, get home about 7:00p, eat, shower, and lesson plan until about 10:00p. If I were behind, I’d grade until 11:00p. My main (only?) source of company was Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, CeCe, Coach, and the rest of the New Girl cast.


Eventually, as the year wore on, I was able to get most of my lesson planning done on Sundays, watching the Packer game in Union South in Madison.


Honestly, it was terrible. Nothing about the first year is good. Nothing. A kid just said “shit” in class. What do I do? Another kid lost my last copy of a worksheet. What’s my copy machine code to make another? Is my grading fair? A parent just emailed me letting me know they’re going to be on vacation in one month, and they need the work. Are you serious? I don’t even know what I’m teaching tomorrow.


Fortunately, I had the support of an excellent, excellent teacher in the room next door to me. Let’s call him Dan. He remains a great friend. Dan was able to anticipate what I needed before I needed it. He helped me know what I didn’t know I needed to know.


Do your new employees have a Dan? How do you know?


To help you, we recently designed the New Employee Check-in Survey. This one was special for me. This is a survey I wish I had when I was a first-year teacher. It’ll help you answer the following questions:

  • Do your new staff feel supported?

  • How could professional development and training be improved for new staff?

  • Are new staff making connections with more experienced employees?

What’s more, this survey isn’t just for new teachers. This survey will work for any new staff, no matter their role.


That’s where I (Lindsey) come in. There’s a quote I’ve always really liked. “When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” That’s from Paul “Bear” Bryant in I Ain’t Never Been Nothing but a Winner.


There are a few very truthful things a person like me hates to hear. And one of those things is some version of “you’re going to make mistakes.”


For a bit of backstory, I was always one of those kids who got A’s in school. I was blessed with the vaguely useful ability to work well under pressure. I was good at both taking tests and writing essays. To put it bluntly, I was used to doing something once and doing it right. I didn’t make mistakes.

But as we all know, school and the workplace after school do not always match. And in the workplace, one thing that always happens is that new employees make mistakes. Of course, when Bill and Rob first told me this, my immediate response was a promise to myself that I wouldn’t make mistakes.


Probably not a great idea.


Because yeah, I made mistakes. And when I did, I did not take it well. (And by that, I mean I was having flashbacks to that time my freshman year of high school when I failed a Spanish test. Rough day.) The day that I realized I had given wrong dates to printers was a tough blow. I was convinced I would be scolded. And I was never going to be able to get it right, how did I get that count wrong, so on and so forth.


And then I was surprised. When I fessed up to my mistake, I was calmly told that since the surveys weren’t going to print for a few weeks yet, I should just let the printers know. So, I emailed the two printers I had given the wrong dates to, and that was that. And I learned.


And then I made more mistakes. I forgot to mention the printer needed to bring the surveys to the post office. I made a report wrong. (I spelled the name of a district wrong once, too.) And each time, we got the issue solved. And sometimes, the person I was talking to would say they had made the same mistake. Or even better, when I made a silly mistake, they would tell me some other silly mistake they had just made. And I realized it wasn’t the end of the world. I learned from those mistakes. I learned exactly what to say to printers to make sure my request was clear, I learned how to best create a report, and I learned many other lessons I wouldn’t have been able to learn without making mistakes.


So, what’s the best support an employer can give to a new employee? Remind them that they’ll make mistakes.


And that it’s okay. You just have to admit it, learn from it, and do your best to not repeat it.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was co-written by Lindsey Naze, Data Analyst, and Rob DeMeuse, Research Director & Project Manager.


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