Ships' anchor and chain; National Museum of Naval Aviation
     What do you think helps us hold down a job? What is the secret to not getting the dreaded "pink slip?" I know I have seen a lot of teachers get let go; teachers who don't show up to work or who frequently show up late. What else would be a "deal breaker?" in your opinion? 

This article is about ways we can be proactive; working toward making ourselves invaluable to the school community and avoiding the pitfalls. 

I asked several of my respected colleagues for their advice: 

Marla Kenney: "Be someone worth working with! Show that students are what is most important! Stand up for yourself but don't make it about you personally but about your strength as a teacher. Be confident but flexible."

Ashley Sams: "I'm a non-tenured teacher and I've been told to make yourself hard to replace. That really resonated with me."

Shelly Bailey: (What NOT to do)..."Argue with principals. Show an inability to work with others as a team player. Be someone who always complains. Don't participate in extra activities like field day or football games. Again, this is showing a lack of 'team player' attitude. We can not be made to do this sort of stuff but it is noticed when we do not. Fail to communicate with parents regularly. Be heard yelling frequently at students. Be someone who becomes known as a gossip..I actually saw someone get fired over this one (stirred up trouble and was over dramatic)."

Victoria Smith: "Volunteer. Respond to emails. Show up on time. Volunteer. Solve your problems without going to your administration. Volunteer. Make the school look good. And, lastly, volunteer." 

Christopher McClendon: "(Don't be the person) who is unwilling or not able to work in a team."

Shayne Train: "Look for opportunities to help out the community eg. PD; promote yourself by submitting photos of art to the school newsletter, enter contests that the school can brag about, send emails about what struggling students have accomplished in your class; keep up your own professional development. There are areas where you can contribute to the overall running of the school or building school spirit. I'm involved in PD, tech and special ed. as a volunteer." 

Eric Gibbons (www.artedguru.com): "Too many sick days ... too many no's to requests while non-tenured. Too many students failing which may be a sign you're not able to reach them. Ticking off colleagues who like to tattle to the boss. Not promoting yourself, your program, or your school. Lack of extra curricular participation. Oh, and sending too many kids to the office because you can't handle behavior issues while they are in class."

Steve Wright: "Smile and be a team player. It goes a long way."

Kelly Parvin: "We create our own pitfalls sometimes. if we all are willing to bend over beyond reasonable expectations, that becomes the base expectation. Pink slips don't equate to bad teaching. They often equal discrimination, micromanagement, district dysfunction, unreasonable expectations, or poor mentoring. Don't be afraid to leave a bad situation. Allow yourself to seek employment in the environment that will respect your educational gifts and offerings. Be appropriately appreciative of others' help and resound in kind. Go to board meetings and know your school and district budget situation. Be aware of the number of tenured and non-tenured positions in your district so you understand your place in the potential shuffle. Be aware of charter, private, and other district offerings that may be up and coming that would impact student populations. When you are non-tenured, maintain a healthy dialogue with your administration regarding your spring search for positions until you have verification that you have a fall contract. Request a letter of recommendation on school letterhead to keep in your file, in case you are pink slipped, as it is emotional and you might not think to ask after. I have been lucky to not be pink slipped, but I've done all of the above this round because the budget in our district is very tight. I really was not sure if my unit would be cut.

Anonymous: "Avoid conflicts with parents and other teachers. Know when something is worth putting up a fight about. Anytime you involve an administrator it complicates their job. If you involve them too much in your 'problems' you get perceived as hard to work with. I have seen this at different schools and through various stories from friends. Yes, it is their job to mediate and take care of things, but if you are always having problems it looks bad."

Marlene Nall Johnt: "When you consistently put up art work on an Art Honor Bd. in a front lobby of your school, you are forced to show the community that your students are not just wasting time in art class. Putting up quality work on display week after week holds you the teacher accountable as well. Making sure that the students are varied and not just from your top 10% is noted by all who visit the art board. When this teacher is considered for the dreaded "pink slip", the principal thinks twice. Will the community miss the work that this teacher displays? Did these displays add pride for the school and the students? Did other teachers mention the outstanding work that this art teacher was able to get out of unsuspecting students? Will parents come in and ask me why the art teacher was pulled and yet "blah blah blah" teacher gets to stay? Oh yes, I've seen this. BTW, once the students see how good the art is created by people they know, they don't destroy these displays. They enjoy seeing the art as well. If you are not putting up poorly executed art, the student body will recognize this. If someone destroys an art work displayed by, let's say, a football player, that football player is going to find out who messed with his art. He may have planned on giving it to his grandfather for Christmas. This Honor Board for Art cannot be just for self-esteem building for inferior art."

Beau Brown: "People who dont understand how to handle the grade level they teach or don't understand certain students... basically, people with horrible classroom management are let go after two years ( usually)."

Shaymon Cain Gosnell: "Do = be visible, be the 'banner lady,' volunteer for new opportunities. Find a mentor and take their knowledge to heart. Don't = party/over socialize with co-workers, date co-workers, or verbalize negative thoughts constantly. (I have seen teachers go for all these reasons.)"

Kristin Bloodworth: "I asked this question in the interview for my current job. The principal said, 'Have a heart for kids. Treat every child like you would treat my grandchild.' The AP, now principal, said, 'Don't leave at 3:15.' Then amended it to, 'Don't leave at 3:15 empty-handed.' To this day, whenever I have to leave at 3:15, I take a big tote bag with me."

Further Resources: 

Advice for First-Year Teachers From the Principals Who Hired Them, The Principal Files, Education World

Getting Hired, by Eric Gibbons (www.artedguru.com)

Teachers Who Make Principals Say WOW! The Principal Files, Education World

How to Keep Your Teaching Job in a Tough Economy, by Barbara A. Toney, ESL Teacher's Board

Ten Tips for Tenure - Keep That Teaching Job, by Sam Rangel, Success In the Classroom, Helping Teachers Make a Difference in the Lives of Their Students

"Success can’t keep its promises and failure can’t hold its ground. One shouldn’t be bamboozled by either state. The important thing is not to be in a certain state, but to be a certain kind of person in whichever state you find yourself."  Of Hills and Dales – 2015 Commencement Address, by Michael Ward, University of Oxford

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols


Anonymous said...

Thanks Anna. This is such a thorough piece. I appreciate so many voices represented here.

HipWaldorf said...

Best post ever! Love the advice and had to laugh at some of the great quotes! Your the best art teacher researcher! Bravo! Steph Brooks

HipWaldorf said...

Sharing this link!


Thanks, Steph!