Thinking about whether or not to take on a new teaching position is tricky. From where you are, the grass can look a whole lot greener on the other side—and sometimes, it is. But, almost always, even the best new job or most aligned fit is not without its flaws and imperfections.
With mental and physical health at the forefront of conversation these days, it is clear that more is at stake than ever before when weighing job options. Consider the stress brought on by the pandemic and subsequent changes to teachers’ certainty around classroom stability. It is vital for you to prioritize your needs. After all, teacher happiness is teacher healthfulness!
If it has been a while since you have applied for a new job, let me be the first to remind you that it’s a full-time job to find a new job! From researching schools and reading lengthy descriptions outlining the role to updating your resume and preparing thoughtful cover letters, the hunt for a new position is not for the half-hearted. Districts and charters have moved toward streamlining their screening process. They may have a multi-page online application or system to help you track your progress. Additional rounds of the vetting process may even factor into Covid-19 protocols.
The new-hire process may look like one or all of the following:
- A traditional interview with an in-person meeting on-site.
- A Zoom interview to meet a potential co-teacher, administrator, or team member to screen for compatibility.
- A student-led interview with a current student or panel of students.
- A one-way video interview to verbally respond to prompts within a set time period.
- New applicant requirements may include TB tests, Covid testing or proof of vaccination, fingerprinting, and more.
Yes, No, Maybe So?
Transitioning from a current, comfortable, or status quo job isn’t simple. However, it might be exactly what you need to invigorate your career and reaffirm your values. The pandemic has forced the nation to pay attention to educators, illuminated how employers managed their staff (under never-before-seen pressure), and asked teachers to reflect on their career paths during this unprecedented time. It has also brought to light the importance of the arts and how students need it now more than ever. Covid burnout is real and, in many cases, has thrust underlying issues around job satisfaction to the surface.
If you are considering if you should put effort toward seeking a new teaching job, rating your current conditions is an excellent place to start. There is value in continuing to grow with a school when it’s the right fit, even if management throughout Covid could have been better. However, you may no longer enjoy your position, it may no longer grow you professionally, or it may be an unsupportive environment. If those reasons are the case, moving on may be important to prioritize the well-being of you and your students. Identifying your non-negotiables with a pro/con list will help clarify your decision and guide your conversation during interviews with potential employers.
Your list can address the following questions:
- Overall and in general, do you like the school?
- Do you/will you have your own classroom/office/cart?
- Do you have adequate planning and collaboration time?
- Do you have a department or team to support art education-specific needs?
- Does your leadership value the arts and your program?
- Do you/will you have an annual budget? If not, how are your supplies going to be funded?
- Are safety/preventive measures related to Covid protocols defined and in place?
- Is there a comprehensive plan in place for distance or hybrid learning should the need arise?
- Does the school have the infrastructure and ability to pivot if an outbreak or closure arises? Are you comfortable with the protocols?
- Is/will your commute be manageable?
- How does the salary measure up to nearby districts?
Let’s tackle three big questions that can inform your decision to take on a new job or position.
The pro/con list can help identify any major concerns upfront. Now, consider the less tangible dynamics. These often define your day-to-day satisfaction in the workplace. It may take a little more reflection to get to the answers, but it will help inform your final decision.
1. What does your relationship with your colleagues, administration, students, and parents look like?
Maintaining excellent relationships in your workplace is vital to your happiness and sense of community. Teachers instinctually know they are also modeling relationships for their students, meaning those relationships are twice as important. Having a “high-quality relationship with supervisors is associated with a higher level of trust, respect, obligation, support, and encouragement,” according to a study by Sias P.M. in Workplace Relationship Quality and Employee Information Experiences. Connected to this is the importance of co-worker relationships since “social support from co-workers is related to individuals’ stress, burnout and physical strains.” Additionally, when teachers develop positive, strong relationships with students, it increases their happiness and supports congeniality with schoolmates.
2. Do you experience joy at your current school?
Happy teachers are healthy teachers. Research in Frontiers of Psychology notes, “There is evidence that individuals may experience a higher level of happiness… when they feel fulfilled in their basic needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness in major activities in their workplace.” Having the ability to do your job without being micromanaged and being trusted as an expert and professional can literally improve your health.
3. Are you treated with appreciation and believe you are valued?
A sense of appreciation and being treated with respect are essential in the workplace. Study after study shows that a culture of gratitude is transformative for employees’ overall satisfaction with their jobs. Leadership’s role is to cultivate a climate of appreciation and model this from the top-down, influencing teachers to do the same with their students. According to research by Charles D. Kerns PhD, MBA, organizations demonstrating a commitment to expressions of gratitude correlate to less teacher turnover and more productive schools.
Suppose your answers are overwhelmingly “no,” or your top non-negotiables leave you with less than satisfactory responses. In that case, it will likely be beneficial to continue your search elsewhere. Sage advice dictates that it’s better to search for a job while you have one. If you are able to carve out time and space in your day to do so, that is an advantage.
New Year, New Job?
Now that the New Year has arrived, it’s never too soon to start scouring the job boards. Desirable teaching positions are often posted in late winter or early spring. Reading between the lines, some factors that support this experiential wisdom include:
- Jobs posted in January or February that are open for June often means that the staff has a good rapport with the administration and has communicated their planned departure early on.
- The administration is forward-thinking and looking ahead to fill needs for the upcoming school year, perhaps even adding positions.
- The Human Resources department and/or administrative team have plans for a lengthy vetting process to find the right fit.
All of the above factors are generally positive markers for a given employer. If you are hired this early on, it can provide peace of mind, financial security, and allow you to plan your resignation well in advance. Districts and sites that demonstrate organization and forethought in the hiring process bode well for exhibiting the same qualities in other areas. Think about it—a principal who can project their needs can also relate to a teacher who plans for the future. A principal who has established open communication with their teachers to the point where their teachers feel comfortable sharing their impending resignation has created a safe environment. And a principal with a thorough vetting process is one with whom you can feel confident in selecting the best teachers for their students.
That said, fantastic teaching jobs can be found any time of year! The website Teachers of Tomorrow compiled rankings based on four factors. They include the number of projected positions, the number of known positions, the availability of hiring staff, and the availability and preparedness of teacher applicants to predict the best months for hiring. Their scoring key is interpreted by “the more points a month scores, the stronger chance you have to get hired.”
There are exceptions to every rule, and it’s no different with teaching positions. You can get hired at coveted schools in August and poor-performing schools in peak season. It is still best practice to inquire about why the position is open and how long the previous person worked there. Teachers’ choices matter and are indicative of their relationship with the school.
There are proven mental health benefits for teachers who prioritize their needs and happiness in the workplace. Therefore, it is essential for you to carefully weigh your options now that policy changes, safety considerations, and a focus on teacher well-being are a spotlight in education. Though it may be additional work to immerse yourself in a job hunt, start by reflecting on essential questions to help you navigate the next steps. The New Year brings fresh opportunities and a chance to revisit if or how well your school fits your needs.
If you are unsure of any next steps, sign up for the next NOW Conference for a session specific to this topic. Additionally, use the resources below to provide further guidance:
- When Do You Need to Find a New Situation? (Ep. 065)
- 4 Important Benefits to Switching Schools
- What You Should Know About Video Interviews
- 9 Things to Think About Before You Switch Teaching Positions
- Getting Hired as an Art Educator Pack in PRO Learning
- Curbing Art Teacher Burnout Pack in PRO Learning
What considerations are factors for you when looking for a new job or position?
What advice do you have to add when it comes to switching schools or districts?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.