New sounds exciting: new job, new house, new baby, new clothes, new car. When we hear the word new, we think of something modern, untarnished, cutting edge and desirable. There’s a reason that people buy new: they want the product in the best condition possible. New is the coveted state. New sounds exciting.
But, what if new isn’t a possession, but a person? What if new is a child on the playground, a neighbour on your street or a colleague at work. Do we respond with the same curiosity and excitement as we do with new possessions? What if new is the idea you have never heard of, a culture you don’t understand, or a mindset you have not explored? Is new exciting then? Do we see new as an opportunity to learn, or do we see new as different, wrong or scary?
A few years ago, I read somewhere that when you hire a new employee, you should not search for the person who best suits your organization. Instead, you should hire the person who has the ability to move your organization forward. Hiring the person that can move your organization forward perpetuates a culture of rejuvenation and learning. In job interviews, applicants need to prove they are the best candidate: someone with ideas, experiences and energy to make a positive impact. And yet, when that successful applicant gets the job, employees around them ‘show them the ropes’, ‘get them caught up to speed’ and essentially show them how to conform. There is certainly value in past practices and the history of an organization, but there is also rich knowledge in a new perspective: something hard to see when you are immersed in a culture.
As a school principal, I worry that as educators, we sometimes miss the value of ‘new’. This year, we have 45 new students and 14 new staff at our school. Over 10% percent of our students and over 25% of our staff are ‘new’. We ask our students to embrace new all the time: new classes, new friends, new projects, and even new curriculum. As educators, we operate at a crazy pace, and sometimes we don’t slow down enough to embrace the opportunity of learning from ‘new’.
- Do we approach new staff and students with curiosity or do we focus on what they need to learn from us?
- Do we presume competence and engage in dialogue hoping to learn new ideas?
- Do we invite new staff to share and collaborate?
- Do we see ourselves as the experts or do we see ourselves as learners?
Last week I decided to bring in lunch and chat with the staff new to our school this year. I wanted to know:
- How has their transition been?
- What can we do to support them better?
- What did we forget to share?
- What great ideas do they have from their past schools that we should learn from?
- What kind of first impression did our school make?
- What is wacky or wonderful about our school?
- What is missing?
- What strengths and passions do they have that could help our school continue to grow?
The conversation was progressive, positive and insightful. New staff have the ability to see through fresh eyes. They have the vantage point to ask great questions and they prompt me to wonder about old habits or practices that exist merely because they have existed that way for years.
As the school year progresses I hope to learn from our new students, new staff, new families and the TTOC’s who get to visit different schools each day. Their rich and diverse experiences are an untapped resource and and their unique ability to look at our school through fresh eyes reinforce the value of new.