How You Wish Teaching Career Started and Where It Probably Is Now
Welcome To Free Agency
Number One Draft Pick
You had just completed your student teaching and now were waiting at home for the phone call from the NEL. (National Education League) Your family and closest friends sat around you on the couch with their arms around your shoulders, smiling in support, and standing by with great anticipation for the announcement of your forecasted, high draft pick.
The call could be from any school at this point because your student teaching was so strong! Your bulletin board stats were amazing! Hardly a photo opportunity went by without you somewhere macroscopic in the picture. The time you spent working out with the glue sticks and construction paper really paid off in your portfolio, highlighted by an “All-Conference Educational Philosophy” that Socrates would have been envious of.
Whatever school chooses you, your willingness to sign the first contract is evident. You pose while holding that “Number 1” jersey proudly with your new Superintendent, as he/she calls out your name for all your future colleagues, parents, students, and school board members. All cheer optimistically for the imminent successes you will bring to the school next fall and all the falls to come before your retirement.
So maybe the draft did not happen for you?
Maybe the next part will relate more closely?
Seasons Gone By
As was expected in your career, you grew with your new school and contributed with 100% effort on every play. Scholarships were won. Standards achieved. Honors were given throughout the years, but who was keeping track. At some point, you noticed that not everyone from your first season was still teaching around you. Some of your colleagues had retired, some chose to move away from the game for a number of different reasons, not even related to their love of education (spousal job relocation, support of children, etc..), and some unfortunately released to meet team salary cap issues.
Now looking around, you sense something else in the system.
Rookies are no longer just young and energetic, but can be older, more mature, and incredibly strong in their craft. Rookies are no longer looking to stay with one school their whole career, not like back in the old days when teachers put in 30+ capable years in one district, one school!
They care less about their loyalty to their colleagues and principals, than they do about having the option to change to better schools, no matter where they are in their careers, and/or for better compensation benefits.
This pattern of Rookie behavior has now changed the Superintendents’ perspectives as well. They now see new options in pay structure, benefits, bottom lines, and the ability to bring in superstars at any time. (Meanwhile having options to drop low performers at any time.)
You realize that the long term contract era is up and you are now just like everyone else in professional leagues.
You have now become a yearly “Free Agent”.
What Does Free Agency Mean?
In professional sports, a “Free Agent” is a player who is eligible to sign with any club or franchise, i.e. not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used for a player who is under contract, but can solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, free agent’s options are limited by league rules.
Typical stipulations from the district level are that a teacher needs to have in a written documentation notice of retirement or leave by the end of June. Notices given after August 1st can bring a fine of $1,000, and leaving after the school year starts can bring a $2,000 fine.
As a Free Agent., this means you can explore new schools, new salaries, new career opportunities with just as much freedom as a student teacher in college, or a someone who is unemployed or employed anywhere else.
The thought of finding a new school may be frightening for many reasons; the thought they may not want a teacher like you; you are too expensive; or that you might upset your current school, or you feel you will be “starting over”. The truth is that many of these feelings are based in the old system where politics and seniority ruled and school curriculum changed every 10+ years.
Now is the time where a number of teachers are in and out of the building, but there is a different understanding of why an employee will stay or leave with no disdain to lack of loyalty.
You even find this change one that the refocuses your career in ways you did not know existed and reinvigorates your love in your profession.
The game has changed and so now must you.