Louisiana Sunshine

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 12 2011

“Onboarding” is a funny word.

One that’s sort of reminiscent of pirates.

Also one that I’d never heard before TFA started onboarding me (that just cannot be the correct usage, but you know what I mean), but that I’ve heard  in multiple places since then.  Vocab words are funny like that.

I’m certain that when TFA talks about onboarding, they’re referring to me coming on board with the organization.  But, in my head, it always sounds like TFA is boarding me — which makes me feel sort of like a ship being boarded by pirates.

It’s early in my onboarding process (which means I’m only partly boarded?), but here’s what I have to do in the next two weeks:

Revise my resume (totally predictable and acceptable)
Submit a 3×5 professional picture (unexpected, but okay)
Submit a VIDEO of myself to be distributed to prospective employers (?!?)

I actually really understand the utility of the video, I do.  The hardworking TFA staff down in South Louisiana is trying to get us hired ASAP (an objective I completely support) and since all us new CMs are in not-Louisiana, it’s going to be much easier to do if they can give the schools are better sense of who we are as people.  Hence, the video.

But I HATE seeing myself on video.  I’ve worked fairly hard NOT to appear on various people’s video cameras (hi mom!).  And now I have to make a video and send it off to parts unknown?


On the upside, one of the reasons that I wanted to work with TFA in the first place is how reflective the organization is about its own practices, and I can see that in the onboarding procedure.  Last year (pre-deferral), this process felt like a bunch of confusing busy work — none of the information was posted in the same place (so we’d get a giant email of stuff to do, but it would be full of links to other places with directions for completely other action items), and a lot of what we did was post comments about various readings and/or videos on TFA Net.  So I wanted a nice timeline and list of action items and deadlines–all in one spot–and instead I felt like I was being sent on a treasure hunt for pertinent information.  (Which also (partially) explains why I was occasionally blind-sided by something big and important that I hadn’t known I was supposed to do:  I was paying attention to the wrong stuff.)

This time through, though, everything feels much better organized:  like I know what coming up and when and why.  Plus, the whole hiring process seems to be getting underway earlier, which I FULLY support.  So even though I would not have willingly decided to submit a video…I will happily make one and send it along.

All this does make me wonder, though, how being boarded (ahem, I mean “onboarding”) goes in other regions.  Does it tend to run the same way, or is each region totally unique?   I’m curious.

8 Responses

  1. Elsa

    I don’t know about the other regions, but I’m going to the Delta this year, and all we’ve had to do (so far) is submit our resumes. No photo, no video. Yet. I don’t think I’d like to do a video either, but I can see why they’re valuable :/

    • loulou

      Hi Elsa! Thanks for the Delta intel — maybe South Louisiana is piloting the video thing? Let me know if anyone springs a video request on you!

  2. Cam

    Hello! I’m an incoming CM placed in San Antonio-our region is currently in our charter year (so exciting); nonetheless, I have been VERY pleased with how organized our staff is! We have a beautiful onboarding google doc and its absolutely wonderful-not only do us obsessively eager CM’s know what’s coming up, but we can plan better because all is sorted by date and mandatory webinars. One thing our staff is doing to expedite the hiring process is reimbursing us out of staters for our testing expenses because the lovely state of Texas only offers testing there! To my knowledge, this is uncharacteristic of other regions so I greatly appreciate the extra effort they are extending! Hope this helps!

    PS. Woo for elementary school placements!

    • Wess


      –FYI, I’ve never heard it called “onboarding” before. That’s weird. For us (this year’s SA corps), it wasn’t called anything. As far as I can remember, we just got beautifully organized Kendra emails. :) Granted, poor Cam’s process is MUCH more complicated than mine was because of district stuff, so a google doc makes a lot of sense. The video is an awesome idea, though! Props to your staff!

      • loulou

        My guess would be that it’s a newish word. (It comes up on a Google search, but not in the dictionary, anyway) I think it’s sort of an annoyingly jargon-ish word, so I’m a little jealous that you haven’t heard it. :)

        South Louisiana has the google docs going on as well (also new this year), and I agree with Cam, it’s a beautiful thing.

        And can I just say “wow” on the testing in Texas thing? Did you both actually have to fly to Texas to take a test!?! (That really puts my general science praxis in perspective!)

  3. Mem

    Welcome to SLA!! Last year a Baton Rouge charter school opened that requires applicants to submit videos as part of the hiring process. I imagine the staff wants corps members to be prepared for all hiring scenarios, so they are making everyone do it…kind of a pain, but I would be surprised if most of the schools look at the videos.

  4. loulou

    Ooh, I bet that explains it! Thanks for the insight!

  5. Business Insider linked to this post.

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