Your Teaching Contract Hasn't Been Renewed?

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Your Teaching Contract Hasn't Been Renewed?
Private school teachers are not unionized. So, if the school decides not to renew your contract, you have little recourse. Here are five suggestions for safe-guarding your employment.
You thought that you were doing a good job. Your students seemed to like you. You interacted well with the parents. But there it is: the dreaded letter stating that the school will not be renewing your contract for the coming academic year. Unfortunately, since private school teachers are not unionized, there is very little recourse. Obviously you need to make sure that you leave with good references if at all possible. Certainly not with negative references.

Here are five things which you must do to prevent that non-renewal letter from being issued in the first place.

1. Show that you love teaching young people.
I mention this in the first slot because every now and then a school will hire a displaced college professor. What do I mean? Academia has been shedding jobs during this economic downturn. As a result hundreds of very well-degreed graduate students are looking at all their options. Teaching in a private school beats being unemployed. And the school is often only to happy to hire somebody who interviews well and looks terrific on paper. However, if you don't demonstrate your love for teaching young people, you could find yourself in a bad spot come contract renewal time.

The advantage which you have is that you probably have rock solid academic credentials, i.e., you went to a good university or two and graduated with top marks. That in itself makes you a good academic role model for your students. Schools like that. The other advantage is that your students will be eager to learn. And classes are small. So you don't have to worry about discipline. You can engage your students and encourage them to explore the subject with their expert guide - you.

2. Be involved in the sports program.
Most private schools require faculty to coach a sport. While they will have professionals handling the major sports, they will expect you to pitch in. So, if you enjoyed raquet sports, for example, here's your opportunity to work with your students on another level. Sports are not a frill in private schools which believe in Juvenal's idea mens sana in corpore sano. All students participate. Most schools will set aside an afternoon for school-wide athletic activities. Boarding schools will devote much of Saturday after morning classes to sports.

Assuming that you inspire your team and do a great job teaching them the finer points of playing the sport well, you will rack up a few more points in the plus column.

3. Adopt an extracurricular activity as your own.
Like sports, extracurricular activities are not optional in private schools. It's part of the package which parents are paying for. When you review the list of extracurricular activities offered at most private schools, you will quickly understand my point. Unlike public schools where extracurricular activities have been cut to the bone, private schools are expected to mount a wide array of choices.

Faculty are expected to 'coach' an extracurricular activity. In fact you will probably have heard this mentioned when you were interviewed. Running a popular club or activity will also enhance your reputation.

4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Communicate with your dean and headmaster. Assume nothing. They will most likely meet with you regularly to discuss your lesson plans and make sure that you are doing things the way they want. It simply makes good sense to hunker down in your first couple of years and make sure that you do everything exactly as they instruct. If you want to deviate from the plan which has been set out, discuss it beforehand. Nobody likes a rogue.

Communicate with your parents. They are your clients, after all, and they have high expectations both of the school and you. Since you are on the front line, you will get shot at first. Parents have an uncanny way of asking other parents what they think of Mr. So and So. Make certain that the feedback is positive, indeed, glowing.

Be positive in all your communications. Your colleagues won't appreciate your trenchant comments about how old fashioned their methods are. That may be true. But keep your opinions to yourself unless your dean asks your advice. A difficult staff member on a one year contract is not going to be looked upon favorably at renewal time.

5. Bring honor to your school.
If your paper on Stcherbatsky was well-received at a recent conference, make sure the-powers-that-be are aware of your achievement. Again, a quick review of private school web sites will show just how proud schools are of their faculty and staff.

If, after reading my suggestions for protecting your interests, you are wondering why you have to be so proactive about safe-guarding your job, that's just the way it is in the 21st century. You can assume virtually nothing anymore. That's a good thing. It will keep you alert, competitive and in top form. That, frankly, is what any private school really wants from its teachers.

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