Today was the first day of “new” faculty orientation. I use “new” in quotes because I’m returning to a school I taught at for 7 years, after spending 6 years away in different schools. Today was great—it was wonderful to feel like the school year is beginning to gather steam and is so full of optimism and big ideas.
At the same time, this new faculty orientation day was like almost every other new faculty orientation day I’ve had. I spent 90% of my time sitting in a chair listening to to people talk about the school and my various responsibilities, and the day wore on, I felt my I growing awareness (anxiety) of all my responsibilities and the things I must get done in the next few weeks, which doesn’t really include starting another blog. Since I’ve been here before, and almost everyone and everything were familiar to me, I started to think about what truly new faculty must be experiencing, when almost every face, every reminder, and every “really important thing” is new and seemingly equally pressing.
This got me thinking, surely there is a way to improve how new faculty are orientation. How do we bring new faculty into a school, give them a good sense of the culture of the school and the well established and important roles they will play within it, while at the same time, drawing out their innovative ideas that will help the school to improve and grow? And how can we do all of this in a way that is engaging, relaxing and doesn’t put people who’ve just met for the first time and come from all different backgrounds on the spot?
The idea of new faculty orientation reminded me of a video I saw this summer, 7 minutes of Terror, which details how the Mars rover Curiosity, which NASA had to prepare to deal with the most dangerous and uncertain part of its mission, landing on Mars, without being able to communicate at all with NASA for over 7 minutes. Of course, the brillaint engineers at NASA came up with an ingenious solution that turned out to be just complex enough ensure success. And isn’t that what we want for new teachers and our students? To be able to operate successfully and semiautonomously in unfamilair and uncertain conditions? So what would NASA do?