New staff induction at Bangkok Patana School, August 2022. (Photo source: Bangkok Patana School)
International teaching is a wonderful vocation. You have the opportunity to teach in well-resourced schools which boast facilities that rival many university campuses. You teach students from all over the world who speak many languages, and you become part of a diverse and interesting community. However, you must also leave behind the security of family, friends, and supermarket aisles with products you recognize. The characters who embrace this challenge are often brave, resilient souls with plenty of wanderlust. They are also highly skilled practitioners who are truly dedicated to their work.
Every international school approaches onboarding through a different lens depending on its unique resources and needs. Attracting new hires, retaining new recruits, financial implications, and creating equitable opportunities for local and international hires all play a part in a school’s decision on how to welcome new teachers and staff.
At Bangkok Patana School we believe recruiting the right teachers is one of the most important decisions we make as a school. Once we've carefully selected a candidate who has excellent subject knowledge and the ability to really connect with our students, we also believe in the importance of investing in the successful induction of that teacher (and their dependent family members) into the "Bangkok Patana family."
Our induction begins well before the new cohort arrives in Bangkok. Our human resources team assists them with navigating the essential paperwork required to relocate to a new country for work: visas, police checks, medicals, and passport renewals. Alongside this process, we host a series of online calls using Microsoft Teams so the cohort can meet key faces, make connections within their cohort, and access essential information. This way, when we do meet, we're already familiar with one another. As Amy King, one of our new secondary teachers put it, "Indeed it was the least apprehensive I have felt before joining a new school thanks to the wealth of information and communication through the New Staff Induction Team and reassuring Teams chats."
The personal touch is all-important in a successful induction. Our academic leadership team members are all involved in extending a warm welcome. This starts at the airport with our head of school and principals being there with welcoming smiles and an offer to help wrangle the overflowing baggage carts.
One aspect of our induction program we are constantly refining over time is that of timing. Too short and our staff will feel overwhelmed with information, too slow and they'll get anxious about the task ahead. We divide our induction into two distinct phases: phase one-personal and phase two-professional.
In the personal phase, we focus on getting our staff set up in their new homes, we support them to find local supermarkets and make that all-important trip to IKEA! We show them their local park, fresh market, and how to download Grab and LINE (vital apps for living in Thailand) on their phone. We tour the school and let them see their teaching space. Putting wellbeing first is a top priority.
As staff members become settled, we transition to the more professional phase of the induction. Here we provide a range of workshops to familiarize the cohort with key policies and procedures and introduce them to the middle leaders they will work alongside. We demonstrate our approach to learning and teaching and help the staff navigate our academic management systems (or even just how to log in). We also incorporate sessions such as "Living and Working in Thailand with Thai People" to provide cultural context to their new posting and provide some basic Thai language skills.
Our induction program aims to foster friendships and a support network among the new staff cohort. Far away from home, these friendships become very important when the honeymoon period wears off and the inevitable "bumps in the road" arise. To facilitate this process, we include a range of optional social events. Dinner at a local Thai restaurant, family friendly pizza by the pool at our residences, and a delicious Indian feast hosted by our head of school are all on the menu. Murray Sutcliffe, one of our new staff, reflects on the impact of these events, "There were numerous wonderful, culturally enriching experiences throughout, but my personal highlight came right at the end of the induction, where we were treated to a fabulous evening river cruise. It was there that we toasted glasses to new friends, and to the experiences that we know await us in the future!"
Video Link: Induction 2022.mp4
Cindy Adair is the cross-campus assistant principal, continued professional development Lead, SEHS Teacher, Career Counsellor, and Coach.