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Aloha is a small word with a big reach. Think of it as a hug. In Hawaii, we use it to say hello, good-bye, and as a synonym for love. The word aloha also describes our approach to helping new teachers get connected to our church, school ministry, and community.
Our school enrollment averages around 200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. We have one class per grade where we try to do it right and do it well. We have 13 full-time teachers; but because it is Hawaii, every year we say good-bye to at least one terrific teacher and hello to a new one. Over the past 30 years, this has added up to a lot of hugs.
For many of these new teachers it is their first teaching opportunity. For them, moving to Hawaii is both exciting and a little scary. Here are a few of the things that have worked for us to help make the move easier for them.
Before They Arrive
Helping new teachers feel loved and wanted begins before they arrive. Moving to a new ministry can be exciting and scary. Knowing that information reduces anxiety, we try to create an environment where new teachers are comfortable asking questions. We have found that sending emails and text messages works well because of the time zone differences, but this also works well because it allows the new teachers to ask all sorts of questions as they think of them without feeling like they are bothering someone. We ask one or two of our current teachers to connect with them as well. The more information we can give them before they arrive the better.
When They Arrive
My wife and I and two or three of our teachers like to greet new teachers at the airport with a smile, a flower lei, and a short tour of the island. During the first week, we want to accomplish three things.
First, we want to familiarize them with the island. This means spending the day with them as we circle the island while sharing with them about ourselves, our diverse culture, and our unique history. Moving to a new place is always better after making new friends, so we try to take other teachers with us on these excursions to help foster opportunities for new friendships to develop.
Second, we want to help them get established in their new home. Since new teachers will not be paid for another two or three weeks, we take them grocery shopping and the church picks up the tab for the first $100. We also ask the new teachers to make a list of things they need for their house and classroom. We call this a wish list. We post the wish list in the back of the church auditorium and challenge our church folks to provide the items. Our church families are great about adopting new teachers and making them feel loved and part of the church.
Third, we want to help new teachers get connected with our church. During that first week, our pastor and his wife will work on connecting with them. We encourage our college and career Sunday school class, church members, and school staff to reach out to our new teachers as well by including them in family activities. We know that the more connections the new teachers make, the faster they will feel like they are a valued part of the ministry.
After They Arrive
After playing tourist for the first week or so, we want our new teachers to get busy working. Working together builds unity, and at the beginning of the school year we have lots of opportunities for unity!
For instance, we always schedule a church-wide work day for families to come help the teachers get the campus and classrooms ready. We also have a day set aside for new teacher orientation. This way they can have the principal’s attention, take care of paperwork, and get some individual help before the other teachers come for in-service training. Once in-service training begins, an experienced teacher is asked to help the new teacher. This mentor shows the teacher how to get the classroom and lessons ready for school.
We do other things as well, but these are a few of the things that work for us. At our school, loving and helping new teachers is a planned activity, but it is also a part of who we are as a church and school. For us, we have discovered that aloha works!
John Goodale earned a B. A. in pulpit communications from Tennessee Temple University and an M.A. in education administration from Liberty University. He has been a teacher and principal at Ko’olau Baptist Academy in Kaneohe, Hawaii, for 30 years.
Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Spring 2016 Vol.22 NO 3. Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.