Evaluating Your Teaching Contract [Episode 68]


Click below to hear how to evaluate your teaching contract:

It’s contract season! Have you received your teaching contract for next year yet? If not, it will likely be coming soon and regardless of if you are staying or not, you may be feeling a lot of emotions. If you are on the fence about staying in your current position or leaving, I strongly suggest you think through it in a neutral way without letting fear or exhaustion make the decision for you. One way to do this is to look closely through your teaching contract and determine if it best serves you in this season.

Being a teacher these past few years has been incredibly challenging which has led many teachers to question whether they should return to teaching next year, stay in their current position, or try switching schools. When I left teaching in early 2020, I too had to make tough decisions and one thing that helped to make my decision to leave was looking through my teaching contract.

If you are unsure what to do next year, I want to help you by talking you through four things to consider when evaluating your teaching contract. Today, we are taking a close look at requirements vs. expectations, school and district culture, financial implications, and considering where you are in your current season of life.

We have been covering some hard topics lately and I would love to be able to give us all a much needed laugh, but I need YOUR help! For Teacher Appreciation Week, I would love to do an episode on Teacher Appreciation Week gone wrong.

Please DM or send me a voice recording about a time when you received a “gift” or “treat” for Teacher Appreciation Week that we just wouldn’t believe. I’ll be giving away five $10 TpT gift cards to people who share with us. I can’t wait to hear all your stories!

Topics Discussed:

  • My background and story of when I decided to leave the classroom 
  • Why it is important to clarify requirements vs expectations before signing your teaching contract 
  • The importance of working where the school and district culture creates a positive working environment 
  • What to look at when considering the financial implications of staying in your position or leaving
  • Why you should be considering where you are right at this moment when evaluating your teacher contract
  • Please send me a DM or voice recording of your “Teacher Appreciation Gone Wrong” stories!

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

You are listening to episode number 68 of the secondary science simplified podcast. It’s contract season. If you haven’t already, you most likely will be receiving your teacher contract for next school year sometime in the upcoming weeks. And I know this can bring about a lot of emotions regardless of whether you know if you’re for sure staying or not next year. If you listen to last week in Episode 67, you got to hear my conversation with Daphne Gomez, who is better known as the teacher career coach. And she shared about her transition out of the classroom, and how she serves teachers now who are ready to make that transition. But this week, I want to serve those of you who are still just on the fence. Maybe you’re thinking about leaving after hearing about some other career options from Daphne, but you’re just not sure yet. Or maybe you’re leaning towards staying. But you just want to make sure you’re set up for a better school year next year than maybe you are this past year. And while I know there’s so much out of our control that we really can’t predict. I also know from experience that there are a few things that you can look for now in your contract before signing to help set you up for a better future. Ready to hear more. Let’s dive in.

This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time spent in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Now, before we get into today’s episode, I need your help. Teacher Appreciation Week is coming in just a few weeks. And I have an idea for what I think would be a really fun episode and honor Teacher Appreciation Week. But I need your help to pull it off. Okay, so here’s what I need. I want to hear your stories of if you’ve ever gotten like a gift or a treat for Teacher Appreciation Week that we just wouldn’t believe. Think Teacher Appreciation Week gone wrong. And while I hope you have all always been celebrated and appreciated so well, like you deserve. I just know that isn’t the case. And sometimes our admin or you know, the PTF at your school does something to appreciate teachers and it just does not go over well at all. And so I would love to collect your stories to share in an episode so we can just laugh over them together. So here’s what I need from you. You can submit your stories to me two different ways. One is you can just DM me on Instagram, your story, my instagram handle is it’s dot not dot rocket dot science. Or there’s a link in the show notes that you can click. And in literally one second, you press a button, and you can tell me over a voice recording your story. And you can do this really quickly. These don’t have to be long stories, even just a little snippet would be great. And if you DM me, I’ll just have to read your story on the episode. But I would I would just love to hear your voices too from your voice recordings if you’re willing to do that. And this will all be totally anonymous, you won’t have to share your name or anything like that. So don’t be nervous about that. And to thank you for participating in this, I’m going to give away five $10 TBT gift cards to people who share their stories with me. And that’s just a hope that we can kind of get enough stories for an episode. If we can’t gather enough, we just won’t do the episode and I’ll always come up with something else. I always have plenty to share with you. But I just think this would be such a fun way for us to laugh together. And if we can make it happen where you share your bad stories, then I have a good surprise for you for Teacher Appreciation Week. That will kind of be a really good treat to make up for those years that you may have had bad treats. So again, please share your stories. I would love to hear them. Okay, now let’s get back to talking about contracts. Being a teacher is already hard enough. But I know that these last few years have been insanely above and beyond challenging for you all based on how many of you are sharing your experiences with me in my inboxes I think now more than really ever before. You are really questioning whether or not you want to return to teaching next year or you know if you want to try switching schools to see if a change in environment will make a difference. And it makes perfect sense why you feel that way. Now this episode is not me telling you what to do because I cannot do that but I do want to share with you a few things you may want

Want to consider when you’re evaluating your teaching contract for next year, you know, as a lot of you know, who have been around my corner of the internet for the last six or seven years, I went on maternity leave when we adopted our son back in the spring of 2018. And then that maternity leave became an extended maternity leave, because, you know, kind of when it was wrapping up, I ended up getting pregnant, and we had our second and August of 2019. And then when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I was just officially no longer on leave at that point, but I just made the decision to be home for the foreseeable future. And you’ll kind of hear later in the episode, why we made that choice financially. So I just want to share that background with you before we get in. Because I always want to be fully transparent with you with the perspective that I’m sharing these things from. So all of these things are things that I was considering when I left teaching in a pre pandemic teaching world. And I know that is so different from post pandemic teaching that you all are experiencing now. So I want to acknowledge that and I want you to take that with a grain of salt. But also know that I do think a lot of these things still apply. And I really just want to ask you some tough questions to consider to help you make the best decision for you and your family. Okay, so first thing I want you to consider when you’re evaluating your teaching contract, as you get it over these next few weeks, is what are the requirements in your contract versus the expectations? Okay, let me explain what I mean by that. I think it is so important to really read the fine print, and ask all of the questions before you sign. know for sure before you decide yes or no, what the contractual requirements are from your school or district versus just the expectations. So what does your contract require of you verse, what they want from you, on top of your contract, what are the expectations on top of it, I think a lot of times a contract will look really reasonable, only to have a very vague statement at the end that says something like the teacher will take on additional necessary responsibilities as needed and determined by the administration. So this is one of those types of statements. That’s basically a free for all, so that if push comes to shove at the last minute, you can be forced to coach middle school cheerleading. And I say this from experience. So what I encourage you to do is find out when you’re looking at your contract, okay, I see what’s written here. But what may be expected of me on top of this, and if you can try to get it in writing, I really recommend if possible, I normally prefer to have conversations in person, y’all know, I’m like all about face to face, you know, like parent teacher conference over an email. And I feel that way with admin too. But for something like this, I do actually think it’s better to submit your questions over email, so that then you can have a record of their responses in writing, I think that’s really, really important. And it’ll make it easier in the future to if you kind of have to push back on some things they’re asking you to do, because you have something really concrete to refer to not just something they told you in the hallway in passing when you chatted with him about it. Okay, so here are some things that I would be sure to ask. These are questions that I was asking, especially because, again, as we were trying to start our family, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. And that led us to pursue adoption. And adoption is really I mean, pregnancy is unknown, but at least kind of once you are pregnant, you have like a nine month expectation, you can kind of start planning with adoption, it could have been any day. So in those years that I just didn’t know, like, will I be here all year? Will I adopt a child in August, January, may not even the school year? I don’t know. I just had a lot of questions. I needed answers to walking into that. So these are some of the things I asked about. First, I asked about contract hours. So I wanted to know what are the exact times that my admin are expecting me to be at work? And what are the exact times I’m expected to have off? I think this is really important, because I do think oftentimes, this is actually less than many of us think. And so it’s good to know what they admin have in writing what they’re expecting of us so that it will help relieve some guilt you may feel later on when you are not working the hours that you don’t have to work. I think a lot of times we work citation, when really it’s not actually our contract hours and I want to encourage you to only work your contract hours and I know a lot of you’re like well how do we do that? That is what this podcast is all about. I want to give you strategies to do that. And I really want to support you in that. So if you haven’t listened to past episodes, you should and hang in there with me because we have more coming May June July that’s gonna be all about helping you achieve this work life.

Oh, that’s where you’re only working contract hours next school year. Okay, so first ask what those are. This is different every school that I have been in, you know, I had one school, it was eight to four, and another that was 730 to 330. But ask those questions. Most likely, it should only be a 40 hour window where they’re expecting you to be in the building, working your contract hours. So do ask about that. The second thing I would ask about is your planning time. This is huge, especially if you’re teaching a course like an AP class like AP Biology, now is the time to negotiate. And see if you can work in to your contract some extra planning time for a class like that, that is going to be more burdensome when it comes to grading, especially if you’re teaching AP biology, and you’ve got like 30 plus students in AP biology that is so much more grading than 30 students and a CP biology class, it just is. And next week, we’re going to talk a lot about this about different ways that your admin can support you in your next school year. And so stay tuned for that. But one of them is potentially offering you an extra planning period, that’s a game changer, especially those of you out there. I feel this so deeply. Those of you that have 45 or 50 minute class periods, and you only have one planning period of day. That is so hard. I went from a school where we were on Semester blocks for 90 minute classes every day for a semester, then you switch, but you had one planning period of day. So you had a 90 minute planning period every single day. And I only had you know two or three preps at a time at that school. And then at the next school, I had five preps and I only had 50 minutes planning every day. So that’s just something to really ask about. Another thing to ask about would be support provided. Again, there are so many ways your admin can support you. And they can support you without spending any money, although obviously, more curriculum and lab supplies is incredibly helpful. But now’s the time just to ask those things before you sign your contract, especially if they’re asking you to take on a new prep, ask them what support will be provided. When I was asked to take on AP Biology, it was gonna be my fifth prep, and it was gonna be a brand new class for me. I said, Listen, I need you all to pay for me to go to AP Summer Institute, I need to be trained on this. And so we kind of there were some negotiating, you know, there wasn’t one near where I lived. So I had to drive for hours to Atlanta. But I did make sure I picked somewhere where I had a friend who lived there, so I could stay with her. So my school didn’t have to like pay for hotel, but they did you know, pay for me to actually go to the institute. So there were some support that I was kind of like, Hey, listen, I cannot tackle this. Unless you know, there’s some give and take here. So ask those questions now before you sign your contract. And then another thing to ask would just be additional commitment. Again, oftentimes Teaching isn’t what’s the hardest part. You may love teaching, but it’s everything else that’s put on your plate. It’s coaching clubs, sponsorships, running volunteer programs, Hall duty, you know, that was one thing at the school where I had 90 minute planning 30 minutes of our planning period, every day was like a hall monitor duty. And it was chill, like you kind of sat at a desk, you could grade papers, you get to check their planners to make sure that a hall pass. But still, those are just things to know. Because really, it’s not a true 90 minute planning if you haven’t to go out in the hallway for 30 minutes. So get the answers to your questions. Now, this is such a great time of year to do it, when it won’t stress your admin out as much like if it’s August and the school year is about to start, and you’re demanding an extra planning period. That’s very challenging for your admin to make happen, because the whole counseling department has to be brought in to look at the master schedule and move things around. So now is such a good time to ask these questions. Please don’t be scared to ask these questions. And if you are scared of your admin, that might not be a good situation for you to be in. They may not be great admin if you can’t approach them, which again, we’re literally going to talk about this all month long because admin are such a game changer. So the next three episodes are for you. So just hang with me here. I can’t. If I just did one long episode, this would be like five hours long. So I’m trying to break it up into chunks. We’re going to talk so much more about admin. So stay tuned. But really, really consider, again, what are requirements? What are the expectations and ask questions about those expectations that aren’t really in the contract. Ask about them now and try to get them in writing again. They don’t necessarily have to rewrite your whole contract and include all those things, although that’d be really nice. If they did, and they were that specific. I know that’s not always the case. But at least try to get some of those things in writing in an email that you can refer back to later. The second thing I want you to consider is just the culture of the school you’re in. That’s the school, the admin, the district and even just like your specific science department, when you’re evaluating your contract, your contractual obligations may not be what’s draining most of you about your jobs. You know, it could be all the initiatives that are being thrown on you by the district. Or it could be you know, the way that admin handles or fail

As to handle student behavior issues or parent conflicts or how your admin doesn’t back you up. Or maybe what’s most draining is the negative energy, and the lack of camaraderie and community within your department. You know, there’s so many things that could be draining you that it’s not even actually about what you’ve been assigned to teach and the planning time you have, it could be all of these other relational factors. And so these are things to really think about. And again, so much more coming on this I mentioned a few episodes ago, I interviewed my old chemistry teacher, Zach Matson, who is still in the classroom right now full time, we talked all about working with difficult admin, parents, co workers, kind of having that toxic energy. And it was literally a three hour conversation. So I have two whole episodes coming on that. So again, stay tuned for that. But really think about that, because some of those things you may not have control over, but they make such a difference in the quality of your work life on a day to day basis. And so really consider are these things, things that could change next year? Are there ways that I can create better boundaries to protect myself from maybe some toxicity around me? Or do I need to leave this district because they’re going to keep shoving these things down my throat, these initiatives that I don’t have time to learn and implement, and yada, yada, yada. So think about those things. And I know a lot of these things are hard to really evaluate before you accept your teaching position. Because especially if you’re looking at a new school, you’re like, I don’t know, though is the grass gonna be greener? If I go to this other school, like, I can’t tell what the admin are really like before you get there. So I know that this can be tricky. But I also know too, that I don’t want you all staying where you are out of fear, when it could be a simpler solution. And maybe you just finding a different environment to teach. And it really could just be your environment, and not the actual job and work that’s really draining you. It is truly wild. What a difference. Good verse Not so good admin makes or negative versus positive team of teachers and your department makes. And so if you do consider switching to a different school, my best recommendation is talk to as many teachers as you can that currently work there, just to get a read on the culture of the school and what it’s like to work there. Another thing I’ll already give you a spoiler alert in the episode with Zack is he mentioned when you interview asking the admin seeing if the principal who interviews you will take you on a tour of the school, he said that’s such a great way to see how admin interact with students, how they interact with other teachers. And if they’re willing to take the time to do that with you, it kind of shows how invested they are on a day to day basis with their teachers. If they don’t have time to do it in they kind of send you off with you know, a secretary or sometimes like a student council, senior student, that’s just kind of a little sign, it’s I’m not saying that they’re bad admin, they may truly just be have a crazy day. But those are just little ways you can kind of get a glimpse, if you’re looking at a different school, into if this is the kind of environment and support that you want to be under. So again, just something to consider. Third thing I want you to think about is the financial implications with regards to salary, retirement, insurance, and childcare. And again, I don’t want you to act out of fear, I don’t want you to be staying where you are out of fear. But we do want to, you know, really consider all the options, because I know that there’s so much that goes into it other than like, do I just have too many preps or not? There’s so much for you to think about. Okay, this is kind of the least fun to talk about. But it’s, it could arguably be the most important, you may be in a place after these last few years of just being so done. And no one can blame you or judge you for that at all. But you also just might be stuck because of the financial implications of you making a big change. And this is what I will say was our greatest factor of consideration when I was first going on maternity leave and deciding to take an extended maternity leave that ended up me being where I’ve been out for a long time now. And why I like applied for an extension in my Attorney Lee. So these are things you to consider. You legitimately need a calculator, okay, you need to whip out a calculator and take a really close look at your spending in your finances. You might be more surprised than you think by what you find. Okay, so things to think about. First is your salary versus the cost of childcare. So where I live, the cost for childcare is astronomical. I cannot explain some of you know, it’s insane. I’m in a small town, we don’t have a lot of options. It made sense financially for me to teach if I just had one child, but two or more I would spend more money on childcare than I would actually make teaching. And as many of you know, again, you know, we were told you were never gonna get pregnant. And then when I was eight months, you know my oldest was eight months old who we adopted I found out I was pregnant and

So that’s where I was like, Whoa, I cannot go back because I cannot pay for these two kids. And then for the last five years, I’ve had three children that were not school age, this coming fall will be the first time I have a student in kindergarten, which is free, praise the Lord. But I also have two that would need to be in full time daycare, if I was teaching, it literally doesn’t make sense until I would at least only be paying daycare for one child. And that’s the main thing that made our decision for me to stay home, and just do it’s an awkward silence and do this podcast and serve you in this interim time. And again, We’ll reevaluate, you know, when we are at the point where we only would have one that we’d be paying for daycare, but I just don’t know how it would work with the numbers. And so look at the numbers. Another factor is insurance. This luckily was not a factor for me, because our school insurance was terrible. And so I was getting insurance through my husband’s job at the time. Now he’s self employed, and so am I. So we’re in a very unique insurance situation. Unless you have like, on real amazing health benefits and insurance, I personally would not let this be the deciding factor, because there are a lot of options. And most likely your your benefits may not be that great, at least in the state i live in the insurance that you’re getting through the state is not that stellar. So what we found, you know, in the self employment route has been somewhat comparable. But again, you also may have a lot of different things you’re covering, you have a lot more dependents than me. I don’t know, I know, this is so personal, but obviously consider insurance. And then lastly, consider retirement. Does your state have a pension? You know, do your research, please, please, please do your research. I learned from mine when I left public school and transition to private school, that what looked really good on paper actually wasn’t that good. And I the only way I was going to really reap the benefits was if I taught for 20 to 25 years. And when I honestly thought about this as a 20 to 24 year old, I realized like I couldn’t commit to that my original dream before I ever started, it’s not rocket science, was I really wanted to get my PhD and teach on the college level. And so I have never planned to be in a high school classroom for 20 or 25 years. And so that made that an easier decision factor for me when we did move, and I switched to a private school, because I wasn’t holding out for a pension. Which, you know, again, the benefits that I was offered in my state weren’t great anyway, so it wasn’t worth it for me. Now, who knows what I’m going to do if I’ll keep on with it’s not rocket science, I’ll get a PhD. I don’t know. But I just knew for me, I never planned to be in the classroom that long. So that’s something for you to consider, too. Is that something you really want to do? And if so great. But really think about it. Okay, last thing is just really think about where you are personally, right now, right here, right now, in this moment that you are listening to this podcast, okay? I especially have a hard time doing this because I’m such a planner, I want to know what’s happening not only now, but 10 years from now, like if you had told me 10 years ago that this is what I would be doing right now, I would not have believed you. I don’t even know if I knew what a podcast was 10 years ago. Okay, so the truth of the matter is, we just don’t know what to expect in the future. But no decision has to be a forever decision. Just because I am currently taking a break from teaching full time does not mean I will never teach again. Maybe I won’t be in high school classroom setting, maybe I will be teaching at the college level like I want strained, I don’t know. But we have to just take it on a year by year basis. That’s what I have been doing. I’ve been taking this year by year and this time with my babies has been precious. And I’m honestly so grateful that the math of the finances made this decision easier for me, you know, it was so hard for me to leave the classroom full time. And I missed it so much in those early years. But now I’m so grateful because knowing that like I was going to lose money to teach for the child care, I was gonna have to pay for it, I made the decision. And now I’m getting this time with them. And now my oldest about being kindergarten, before I know it, the baby is going to be in kindergarten. And then I can really reevaluate this decision again, so please consider the seasons that you’re in. Things don’t have to be forever. I know for me personally, I was so encouraged when I decided to take my extended maternity leave, talking to all these women that were at the school that I was in that I just respected so much as teachers, and realizing so many of them took five to 10 years off when they had their babies, and then they came back and they’re thriving in their jobs. And I just didn’t realize that I thought they’d all been there for 20 or 30 years, you know, but they took time off to be with their kids. And they didn’t regret it. And then they came back. And so it was such a good sign for me that you can come back to this. And especially now they desperately need high school science teachers everywhere. So you can totally totally come back. You know, who knows what the future has in store for all of us. But I just want

To encourage you, maybe you need to take a year for your mental health and then circle back, I don’t know, maybe you need to switch schools, maybe you just need to have a really hard conversation with your admin about how hard this past year or two has been on you, and that you need to make some changes, I just really want to urge you to consider all of these things. And again, please don’t make a decision out of fear or out of exhaustion. I really recommend anytime I’m making a hard decision, utilizing a trusted neutral voice in your life to bounce these ideas off of I honestly think that was something really surprising for me. What ended up being one of the most effective parts of my secondary science simplified virtual professional development course. I mean, was that yes, the content was helpful. But it was really for the members of it, the teachers and it to have access to someone which was me in this scenario, who was unattached emotionally from their personal lives that could hear them out and then just share an outsider’s perspective. And I think that’s so helpful in any situation that you are in. So really think through right now. What’s the hardest part of my job? Is it the workload of lesson planning, the workload of grading the stress of managing labs, the classroom management of post pandemic students? Or is it the culture of my school, the lack of support from my admin, the fact that teaching just doesn’t give me any joy anymore? Is it the finances that like I’m doing all of this, to pay for my kids to be in daycare, and I’m really making not that much more and my quality of life feels so low, okay, narrow down narrow in on this. And that will make it so much more helpful for you to make this decision. And if you heard some of those examples I just listed and you thought, oh, it’s the workload. It’s the balancing, lesson planning. It’s the grading, it’s a lapse, please stay tuned. May, June, July are all for you. And then if it’s classroom management, August is going to be entirely dedicated for you on this podcast, like I’ve already planned out through them, because I have so many things I want to share with you all to support you. But if you think it’s more of an environmental thing, and the people you’re surrounded by, and you’re considering switching teaching positions, I urge you to check out episodes 65 and 66. Because I covered a lot of things there that might help you. And again, if you’re thinking about completely leaving teaching, Episode 67 from last week would probably be the most helpful for you. And like I said, if you are for sure staying in the education field, whether at your school or not, I think regardless of where you teach, the most important factor in your contentedness is going to be whether or not you have good support, especially from your admin. So again, next week is your week. Stay tuned for that interview with Zach Matson. It’ll be part one, and then the following week will be part two. If you miss episode 35 where he was on for the first time, you should totally go back and listen, it’s my most listened to episode of all time. I got such great feedback on it. You all loved hearing from him. So he’s coming back. So stay tuned for that. To make sure you don’t miss it. You can always be sure to follow this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. If you kind of click that plus sign or that check, Mark Whatever it looks like in your app, it will make sure that every time a new episode comes out on Monday morning, it’ll pop up kind of in your player. So make sure you do that. And as always, any of the links I’ve mentioned you will be able to find in the shownotes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 68. And don’t forget in those show notes, you can find the link where you can click and leave me a voice recording of your Teacher Appreciation stories gone wrong. You can also DM me on Instagram right this second when this podcast is ending and share your story with me. I really want to compile these for an episode. So I love to hear your stories. And I will share a $10 TBT gift card with five people who share their stories. So please, please please send in your stories. I would love to hear them.

Alright teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be cheering you on teacher friend!

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