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Moving Beyond Non-Renewal
I was non-renewed after four years of teaching at a title one school. It was heartbreaking; and at the time, devastating. A non-renewal, in most cases is a death sentence in education. It can take years to comeback from. In most cases non-renewals are based around noncompliance, or extreme negligence. However, in my case it was based on performance. At least that was what was written on the request for non-renewal. She simply said that I did not provide lessons that were both rigorous, nor rigorously engaging. She also contradicted that statement when her recommendation was for me to take classes in classroom management, not lesson planning. Both of these statements contradict the rubric for which I was evaluated on. The rubric said that I did not plan lessons that were accessible for all students. All of this makes me very upset, and makes me very defensive. My coworkers were just as baffled as I was. They testified on my behalf stating that I was a good teacher and that they were surprised by my non-renewal. In the end it boiled down to - She could do what ever she wanted because I was in my third year, and third year teachers could be non-renewed without cause. It is written in the master agreement. But it also says that if a new teacher gains a score of proficient for three years in a row, they recommend that that teacher be given non-probationary status and renewed for the following school year. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially that is what it states.
This blog however is not about the why behind my non-renewal. It's about what I did to move past it. Well to be honest with you I am still working on this part. However, there is a happy ending to this story. I recently interviewed and accepted a position as an instructional para-professional. It's not a traditional teaching position, but I will still be in the classroom working with students. I will still be teaching! I look at this opportunity as a chance to learn. To become a better teacher. To watch, learn and plan with a veteran teacher. I also see it as a way to wipe the slate clean. I guess in a way this position is one way that I am working to move forward and hopefully next year have my own classroom again.
My advice for recovering from a non-renewal of a teaching contract would be:
1. Make a list of pros and cons of teaching. This will help you organize your thoughts and help you solidify your next move.
If the pros outweigh the cons, be prepared to fight for yourself and get your references in order. Update your resume, and cover letter. It is also okay for you to set up a meeting with your principal and ask them what they are going to say about you to perspective employers. Knowing what he or she may say about you will help you prepare for the inevitable question of why you were non-renewed during the stressful interviewing process. Another helpful thing for you to do is ask another person (preferably another principal or your mentor) to set up a mock interview. They can give you pointers that will help you get through the interviewing process, and help your chances of obtaining your next teaching position. It may also help you manage your stress level. One last thing...be prepared to take another position in a different capacity like I am to get your foot back in the door. This is not defeat. This is a smart move on your part, and could pay off for next year.
2. If the cons out weigh the pros, be prepared to look at your resume and rewrite it to highlight your skills.The skills you have learned as a teacher are marketable, but may take some creative writing. Don't be afraid to ask for help with this. There are plenty of agencies that specialize in resume and cover letter writing and might also be free, such as your local unemployment or workforce centers.
3. Find a way to relax. This process is going to be stressful. Mediate, color, take up running, yoga. What ever you decide to do make it a daily habit to practice your relaxation technique everyday. My Therapist expressed her concern that I was getting too stressed out, and that that stress may come through during an interview. Therefore keeping me from being myself and sabotaging the interview.
4. Sign up with a temp service. This will keep you sane. I wish I had done it earlier. Doing something even if it's answering phones is better than sitting around waiting for that perfect opportunity to find you. Funny enough, once I started working as a temp, that's when I started getting called for interviews and landing then landing a position.
5. Reach out to people. My husband help me through the difficult days. He listened to me, and wiped my tears, and calmed me down when I though all was lost. Again sitting at home waiting for someone to check on you and see how you are doing isn't going to work.
6. It's okay to lose it once in a while. I would get in my car and drive to a quiet out of the way location and just cry. Not your quiet cry either. It was an ugly cry involving snot and swollen red eyes. Sometimes I even screamed. I was always surprised that someone didn't call the police to do a welfare check on me. I did this so that my kids did not see me lose it. It was just for me, just for my own relief.
7. Even if money is tight, go out and have a little fun.
8. Lastly: Take care of yourself. Eat, sleep, pray, laugh, love, exercise. Be good to yourself. If you get to down on yourself and stop taking care of yourself that will come through during an interview.
I hope this was helpful to you and your journey back to teaching or what ever you may choose to do. Don't give up!