It’s that time of year when you will most likely be receiving and evaluating your teaching contract for the next academic year. And let’s be honest, this may be the hardest year yet when it comes to evaluating your teaching contract.
Because this year has been a DOOZY, in a lot of ways, even more so than last year. I think this is because in the spring and summer of 2021 we were all hopeful that the 2021-2022 school year would be different and back to “normal” and instead, things just felt even more draining and complicated in a lot of ways.
Being a teacher is already hard enough but the last few years have really been insanely challenging. Now, more than ever before, teachers in my inboxes are really questioning whether or not to return to teaching next year, or if they are staying in education if they should switch schools. And it makes PERFECT sense why that is.
I am not here to tell you what to do but to share a few things you may want to consider when evaluating your teaching contract. I went on maternity leave in the spring of 2018, and that maternity leave became an extended maternity leave when we had our second in August of 2019. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020 I was officially no longer on leave and made the decision to be home for the inevitable future. So this is the perspective I will be sharing these considerations from, as they are the ones I myself was considering not too long ago!
When evaluating your teaching contract: Consider the requirements in your contract vs. expectations.
I think it is INCREDIBLY important to really read the fine print and ask ALL of the questions. Know for sure before you decide yes or no what the contractual requirements are from your school or district vs. the expectations. What does your contract require of you vs. what they want from you on top of the contract?
A lot of times a contract will look incredibly reasonable only to have a very vague statement like, “Teacher will take on additional necessary responsibilities as needed and determined by the administration.” This type of statement is basically a free-for-all so that if push comes to shove, you can be forced to coach middle school cheerleading.
So, find out what is expected on top of what is already in the contract, and get it in writing. I highly recommend submitting questions over email so you can have a record of their responses. This will make it easier in the future if you need to say “no” to have something concrete to refer back to.
Here are a few questions I would be sure to ask. They may not have the answers at this time (and let’s be real, they most likely won’t until they have their final student numbers and staff in place) but it still doesn’t hurt to ask:
- Contract hours – know the exact times you are expected to be at work and the exact times you have off. This will help with guilt you may feel when you are actually only working the amount of hours you are required to (something I really want you to do!!)
- Planning time – this is huge. Especially if you are teaching a course like AP biology, now is the time to see if you can work into your contract additional planning time. There are a ton of ways your admin can support you without spending any money, and this is one of them!
- Support provided – again, there are so many ways your admin can support you without spending money, although more money for curriculum and lab supplies is obviously incredibly helpful. NOW IS THE TIME to ask for some of these things before you sign your contract!!
- Additional commitments – often times TEACHING isn’t what is hardest about our jobs – it is EVERYTHING else put on our plates. From coaching to club sponsorships, running volunteer programs to manning the halls during your planning period, ask what will be expected of you. This is truly the best time of year to get answers to these questions!!
When evaluating your teaching contract: Consider the culture.
Consider the culture created by your district, the specific administration at your school, and within your department when evaluating your teaching contract. Your contractual obligations may not be what is most draining about your job currently – it could be the initiatives thrown on you by the district, the way admin handles (or fails to handle) student behavior issues and parent conflict, or the negative energy and lack of camaraderie and community within your department.
^^^These things make SUCH a difference in the quality of your work life on a day-to-day basis.
These are also the hardest things to really evaluate BEFORE you accept your teaching position. You really don’t know until you are in there.
But if you feel like you still love teaching and the workload isn’t too much but the culture is what is draining you, I highly recommend considering other teaching options where you live. It is WILD what a difference good vs. not so good admin makes, or a negative vs. a positive team of teachers in your department. And if you DO consider switching to a different school, talk to as many teachers as you can that currently work there to get a read on the culture.
When evaluating your teaching contract: Consider the financial implications with regards to salary, retirement, insurance, and childcare.
Now, this is the least fun to talk about, but arguably the most important. Because you may be in a place after these last few years of simply being DONE. And NO ONE can blame you or judge you for that.
But you also may feel “stuck” where you are due to the financial implications. This was a big factor for us when I was first going on maternity leave, and considering applying for an extension.
So you need to whip out a calculator and REALLY take a close look at your spending and finances. You may be surprised by what you find. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Salary vs. cost of childcare – where I live the cost for childcare is astronomical, and we don’t have a lot of options as I am in a small town. It made sense financially for me to teach when I had 1 child, but 2+ I would actually lose money to childcare.
- Insurance – luckily this was a nonfactor for me, as our school insurance was terrible and I was able to get insurance through my husband’s employment. Now he is self-employed, so we are in a unique insurance situation. But there ARE options!! Unless you have UNREAL/AMAZING health benefits and insurance, I wouldn’t let this be the deciding factor. Meet with some insurance agents and do your research!! You may be surprised by what you can find.
- Retirement – this really depends on your state and pension and all of that, but please please PLEASE do your research. I learned from mine that I what looked good on paper really wasn’t so good, and it ALL depended on me teaching for 20-25 years. And if I am honest, I couldn’t commit to that! We actually found that we could do really well saving for retirement and doing it all independently, without employee matches and 401ks.
When evaluating your teaching contract: Consider where you are personally RIGHT NOW.
Last but not least, evaluate where you are personally RIGHT HERE AND NOW. I had a hard time doing this because I am such a planner. I want to know what is happening not only now, but 10 years from now.
And the truth of the matter is, we just can’t know. But NO decision has to be a forever decision. Just because I am taking a break from teaching full time DOES NOT MEAN I will never teach again!! But I can’t get this time with my babies back, so it is worth it for me personally to take this time off.
Maybe I will teach again in a public high school, maybe I won’t. Maybe I will work in a private school or be a lecturer at the local community college. Who knows! But my teaching career isn’t over until I say it is over. You CAN take a break.
If you are considering switching teaching positions from a public school to a private school (or vice versa) specifically, check out this post here with additional questions to consider when evaluating your teaching contract.
I hope this post helps you in evaluating your teaching contract! I am rooting for each and every one of you to be in the best situation possible this upcoming year!!