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Make Time for That Last-Minute Hire

Recruiting & Hiring

Early in both the back-to-school rush and the hiring season, you have options. You can choose between the Lisa Frank notebook with a tiger on it, or one with a unicorn. You can hire candidate A, or candidate B, or candidate C.

You take the time to make the right decisions and get ready for the first day of school. But then, it’s three days before school starts… and disaster strikes. Your daughter needs a blue binder for math class. A new hire suddenly backs out. You face unexpectedly high student enrollment. Panic sets in: you need to find a new teacher or a new binder now — but the shelves are empty, and the most qualified candidates have already been hired elsewhere.

It’s easy enough to find school supplies, but quickly finding a new teacher at the start of the school year is incredibly stressful. And even after you find the right person, you need them to dive right into the job without any preparation.

So what can you do to set your new hires up for success?

Cover everything.

Last-minute hires might not fit neatly into your onboarding process, and missing orientation makes it hard to get the details they need to get started as soon as possible. But last-minute hires are embarking on a rollercoaster ride where there’s no time to hunt down answers to questions about policy or processes.

So make sure they have access to the resources they need to get fully settled in: a copy of the standards and curriculum that apply to their assigned position, a handbook to school policies and rules, directions to getting their email and technology set up, and anything else that might be useful for them to have as a reference. And many of the required safety and compliance trainings that take place before school starts can be provided to new hires online, eliminating the need to host additional in-person training sessions.

Provide extra support.

If teachers aren’t hired until September, they miss out on summer opportunities to learn and collaborate in professional development activities. Couple that with the stress and pressure of leaping into teaching with very little preparation, and you have a recipe for trouble. So go the extra mile to provide last-minute hires with the support and accommodations they need to be successful.

Part of this is ensuring that they have easy access to information about finding and enrolling in relevant, useful professional development that they may have missed over the summer. It’s also a good idea to set them up with an experienced mentor, even if they have been teaching for years. This gives them someone to rely on for questions about school culture and policy, and sets the stage for collaborative, job-embedded professional learning for both mentor and mentee.

Finally, be sure to check in with your last-minute hires regularly, and ask specific questions about how they are doing. Telling them, “Let me know if you need anything, or have any questions” is not likely to elicit a deep discussion about challenges they face. Instead, make it clear that you’re available to answer their questions and care about their success by asking targeted questions. You might ask, for example, if they have any questions about the computer system or classroom technology, or how their students behaved on their first day.

Help them plan.

Last-minute hires are at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to planning. Whereas other teachers spent the summer months getting ready, new hires simply don’t have enough time to get their classroom ready, set up procedures or plan great lessons. As a result, they tend to spend a lot of late nights trying to play catch-up.

So what can you do? You can’t create more hours in the day (wouldn’t that be wonderful?) but you may be able to shift some resources to free up extra planning time in the beginning, leading to more effective teaching and better lesson plans for the rest of the year.  For example, one last-minute teacher explains that her district provided a substitute for a couple of classes, allowing her to work on unit planning in the library or in the curriculum coach’s room.

If your substitutes are prepared for the classroom, this can be a great compromise: without the new hire, you may have had to pay a long-term substitute to fill in.  This strategy also sets your new teachers up for success, rather than letting them stumble through their first weeks and spend the rest of the year struggling to keep up.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.