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The Brutal Profession of Teaching in PA, Part Two

Updated on June 5, 2016

The Third Interview and Final Selection

If you are one of the lucky few teaching candidates who have been selected for a third-round interview within a PA public school district, congratulations! Just making it to this interview is worth noting, but don't get your hopes up yet. Up until this point, most likely, you have been selected by the principal and/or superintendent, but now, it is up to the district's school board. If you live far away from the school district, and the other candidates live much closer, you can probably forget about getting the job. Over the years, I have actually found that my address has worked against me (in many cases), even though I have been willing to drive up to an hour each day for employment. If you know someone on the school board, have attended that district when you were in grade school, or know someone with connections to the school district, then you will most likely get the job!

I am not saying that it is impossible to get the job if you do not have any connections, or live close to the district, but it is quite difficult. There is, however, another obstacle that teaching candidates may incur. During this final interview, you may be asked for your requirements. Be careful answering this question though; if you ask for too much money, the board may default to one of the other candidates, but, if you have a master's degree, the state is required to pay you a bit more for your level of years teaching. If you are in this situation, but you are willing to accept a lower pay, I suggest stating that during the interview, but I do not believe you should sell yourself too short. You need to be able to afford your bills. My recommendation is to look up the teacher salaries in the district of your interview, prior to your meeting. That way, you will have an idea of what they might be willing to pay, and to increase your chances, if you are asked, you could request slightly under that amount.

You Got the Job!

If you got that call with the teaching job offer, congratulations! Be proud! That is a major feat! Now, though, you are in for a high amount of stress. For the year, you will most likely work diligently to meet every student's needs, contact parents when there are issues, deal with non-reasonable parents (some who may actually borderline harass you), help alleviate drama among the students, and in some districts, you may have to work under a poor administrator. Count your blessings if you end up with a good one!

Understanding your Certificate

Now that you have the job, it is important that you understand your certificate. In PA, your certificate is good for "six service years," which has clearly been explained to me by the PA State Board of Education. "Six service years" does not equal "six years." According to a State Board of Education representative, you could work out of state for 25 years, and come back to PA, and your certificate will still be good. "Six service years," means that you are serving as a teacher, within the subject of your certification, IN PENNSYLVANIA, within a public school district, working 50 percent time to full-time (anything under 50 percent time will not count toward your certificate, but 50 percent time could be divided by half of the week's school days, or reporting every weekday for half of that day's hours). Throughout my teaching years, I have come across many administrators who were not aware of this policy. Another interesting fact is that if you work at a private or parochial school, it is up to you whether or not you would like those years to count toward your certificate, which helps you in the process of obtaining your Instructional II certificate. OUT-OF-STATE TEACHING WILL NOT BE COUNTED TOWARD YOUR PA CERTIFICATE, INSTRUCTIONAL TWO, OR ON MOST PUBLIC SCHOOL SALARY SCALES. During these service years, for every five years, teachers must acquire 180 Act 48 credits, in order to maintain the certificate. If you are in graduate school, know that you should submit your credits to the state, as those graduate credits will yield you more than enough Act 48 credits! Additionally, in order to gain an Instructional II certificate, three years of full-time teaching (50 percent time or more) must be completed within PA, with three satisfactory observations, and completion of an approved induction program (usually presented through your school/school district). Intermediate units will count, but with the same requirements. In some cases, the teacher may be required to put a portfolio together (the contents of the portfolio may differ by school/school district). In relation to being sure you are knowledgeable of this certificate, it is now important to know the role of your administrator.

The Role of Your Administrator

The role administrator, or principal/assistant principal, is to run the day-to-day operations, ensure teachers are performing with satisfaction, to deal with safety issues (i.e. conduct fire drills, weather drills, and/or lock-down drills), and mediate conflict resolution between faculty/staff, and/or teachers and parents (in some cases), however, he/she also has another responsibility from the state. Two observations of each teacher are required to be completed by a certificated administrator each year. After each observation, administrators are supposed to schedule a post-observation conference, in order to discuss your rating. Throughout my years of teaching, I have found that many administrators will end up playing "catch-up" at the end of the year, because they had not yet observed the teachers. Additionally, those post-observation conferences do not always occur, especially if your position is being cut for the next year. Even if you are being furloughed, or your position is being cut, you still need this observation in order to apply for your Instructional II certificate, but you are pretty much helpless if your administrator does not to his/her job, as you don't want to jeopardize your reputation by confronting your boss.

Job Security

Now that you have acquired a teaching position within a public school district, and if your year has gone well, your job security truly depends on which subject you teach, the financial state of the district, and/or the policies of the district (or intermediate unit). For example, if you teach a foreign language, and there were already others teaching that language in the district, if the district needs to make a budget cut, your position may be the first to go (newest employees are usually furloughed first). Another example would be English as a Second Language teachers. I worked for an intermediate unit once, teaching ESL, and I was told that many of the teachers are furloughed (laid off) every year, and have to wait to be called back, because these positions rely solely on the enrollment/number of English as a Second Language students in the nearby school districts. If you teach a commonly required subject, that is required for three to four years for students to graduate, you probably have a much better chance at job stability. After three years of teaching, within your certification and in PA, acquiring your Instructional II, and completing your Act 48 credits, you will most likely have a chance at tenure. Furthermore, Pennsylvania is a union state, so it is your choice whether or not to join. I realize that many Republicans may not believe in unions, but as a rare Republican teacher in PA, I advise to join the union anyway. You don't want to risk an angry student making up lies about you, that could cost your job. You need protection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, teaching positions are extremely difficult to acquire in the state of Pennsylvania, and are often low-paying. There are certain regions of Pennsylvania, however, that tend to have more need that other areas. This is such an extensive process that I have even gone to a "screening" (first interview) interview at one school district, did not make it to the second interview, but then they called me again, asking me to come for a "screening interview." I had to inform them that I had already done that two weeks prior. The school district must have been so embarrassed that it worked in my favor. They asked me to come again. I repeated my interview, but this time, I made it to the second and final round (there were only two rounds at this district), but unfortunately, I did not get that position (I did get hired elsewhere, though). I feel that PA is almost making it impossible to hardworking candidates, like me, to acquire positions, especially if they do not have connections in the district. First, you get called for the interview, but if you cannot make the ONE day that many districts will offer you, you will usually lose the interview. If you have children, have planned and paid for a vacation, or are already working elsewhere, making the interview on that ONE day at that ONE time can prove to be trying, but if you really want that position, you will have to rearrange your schedule! If you are fortunate enough to acquire a position, after much agony putting materials together, and traveling to three different interviews, know your blessings. If you have been one of those unfortunate candidates who made it to the third interview, with much hard work and dedication, but was not selected, I'm sorry, but I understand. You may want to reconsider what is best for you and your family's needs, and whether or not you want to continue the process. The world needs great teachers, but it is saddening that many teachers, like me, are overlooked, "second best," or have position cuts repetitively, when we are constantly seeing disgusting former teachers on the news; teachers who have had sex with students, teachers who have assaulted students, and teachers who have sold drugs to students (the teacher to whom I'm referring had held a teaching job for ten years, during which he was committing this crime). How are the unemployed, dedicated, caring teachers supposed to feel when they see these terrible people on the news? How did THEY get the job? Most likely, they knew someone.

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