TWIE: Why I’m Teaching At A Charter School

I had a post up at This Week in Education last week about why I’m now teaching at a charter school. The bottom line is a little anticlimactic:

In other words, I’m working at a charter school because it was – by quite a wide margin – the first school that really appealed to me to offer me a job. There’s really not much more to it than that.

One twist I didn’t mention is that the school I’d been “bumped” from last year for seniority reasons contacted me toward the end of July to offer me my job back. At that point I’d already accepted the new, charter school job, so I declined.

At that point it did occur to me, however, that the at-will employment model more common at charter schools – including my new school – was a potential disadvantage for them. Since I didn’t have a year-long contract with them, in theory I could have bailed and returned to my previous school. (Or any other school that offered me a job, for that matter.) It would have been a significant inconvenience for them to try to find a new science teacher less than a week before the first day of work.

Indeed, even four weeks into the school year it remains the case that any teacher on staff could easily quit at any time. I know from personal experience that mid-year departures have the potential to be very difficult for a school to deal with, so I wonder whether at-will employment models are better, on balance, than models that encourage stability over the course of a school year.

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  1. Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:41 AM | Permalink

    Last year, I quit my previous job knowing that the school I wanted didn’t start hiring until mid-August–they start late. But they’d offered me a job the year before, 3 days after classes started at my current school, and I felt obligated to turn them down. I really wanted to switch schools, so I quit. And got the job I wanted. On August 14th.

    That said, the phenomenon you describe is pretty well known, and any mid-career teacher looking for a new job is either going to have to approach the school earlier, planning for it for months in advance, or wait until July or August to accept job offers from public schools.

    So if you don’t like the charter, or want to switch jobs next year, I’d advise reaching out to the school you want, making connections, “talking” (not interviewing) with them in December/January of this year. That way the admin will ignore more of the “new ed school grads” that come out in February, because he or she already has a hire in mind. You probably won’t get an offer until July, but you’ll know you almost certainly have a job.

    I know many teachers who have done this; while you see your decision as inevitable, it’s actually gated by your fear of insecurity. Totally understandable, but not actually inevitable.

    I do agree that teacher hiring is all screwed up.

    • Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

      Thanks for the tips, but I’m not sure what you mean about “fear of insecurity”. If you mean “worry that I wouldn’t find a job”, I was always pretty sure I’d find one, and I’m also fortunate enough to have a gainfully employed partner, so I never felt like I was on the brink of ruin or anything.

      • Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Permalink

        Should have been fear or insecurity, I think.

        Implicit in your posts is the expectation that public schools should be offering jobs sooner in the year, that administrators are not allowed to offer jobs sooner, and so on.

        I’m just pointing out that *many* teachers simply wait until lateJuly or August. So in jumping in early July because that’s the first offer that came through does, in fact, bespeak an insecurity–no, really, dislike of uncertainty–that is not typical for teachers who jobhunt.

        • Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

          That’s a major over-interpretation. If a school that appeals to me offers me a job, why would I pass it up because I think there’s a chance some other school that also appeals to me will offer me a job? It wouldn’t be “dislike of uncertainty” that would prevent that, it would be rationality. For your argument to make sense, you’ve got to assume rather a lot about my decision-making process that I have deliberately omitted from these posts.

          Schools looking to hire probably do have an advantage by acting sooner, if they have that ability to act. The fact that relatively few schools do it just means it’s not a major problem for most schools at present.

          • Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

            I am focusing solely on your acceptance process as defined here. I am not assuming anything at all beyond that. I am trying to point out that your stated preference is a tad unusual.

            I think my describing your “early jump” as insecurity or whatever is distracting you, so leave that aside. Whatever you reason for accepting–which I am not assuming at all–a teacher who says “I took a job at a charter even though I don’t really want to work at a charter, because it was early July and it was the only offer” is not describing a timeline that most teachers would consider realistic.

            If I didn’t want to work at a charter, I would not accept a charter offer in early July. I would know that other offers would come later. (At least, I’d hope they would). In fact, I don’t want to work at charters, and so I don’t even apply to them. I would apply to a charter if it were late August and I had no job.

            Now, you are correct about the process, as I said. It is crazy. But early July is not early, and so it’s distracting when reading your post. Many teachers would be “July? You jumped in early July? Wow. That’s early.”

          • Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

            I agree that “a teacher who says ‘I took a job at a charter even though I don’t really want to work at a charter, because it was early July and it was the only offer’ is not describing a timeline that most teachers would consider realistic.”

            I didn’t, however, say that. What I actually said was:

            “All else being equal, a charter school would probably not have been my first choice. By the end of June, however, I hadn’t heard back from any district schools, and there was much about this particular charter that appealed to me. They offered me classes I wanted to teach with students I wanted to work with in a school trying to undertake a number of interesting, worthwhile initiatives.”

          • Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:44 PM | Permalink

            I agree, by the way, that I “jumped early”. That was my whole point: that my first appealing job offer came early, so I took it.

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