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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

teacher's boss expanding job requirements

A reader writes:

I am a teacher. I have a specific job description with specific duties outlined. Two years ago I got a new boss and she began adding duties to that list. The list includes:

- Visiting students' home prior to the start of school and the beginning of the contract. I have to call families to set up the appointment and drive my own car to the visit while finding childcare for my kids.
- Working a 4-hour Saturday event once a year.
- Additional monthly meetings. Previously, there was one monthly staff meeting, one monthly committee meeting and one monthly study group meeting. She has added an additional staff meeting, weekly team meetings and monthly assessment meetings. This equals many extra before and after school hours.
- Recruitment in which teachers walk around the neighborhood, knock on doors and tell people about our school. We are expected to help do this over the summer.

During that two years, I have not gotten any additional compensation. Some of these additional duties cost me money, yet the school does not reimburse me because they don't have funds. Am I wrong to expect some sort of compensation for this?

Working a four-hour Saturday event once per year and having additional monthly meetings: No, not outrageous. At least not in my opinion. The occasional weekend event and extra meetings aren't generally the type of thing you can make a big fuss about in salaried positions.

Visiting students' homes before the start of the school year: Probably not too outrageous either. Some schools do this as a matter of course. It sounds like your new boss is trying to increase teachers' effectiveness, and whether she's going about it rightly or wrongly, that's her prerogative. (Now, I'm not a lawyer and maybe there's something in your contract that expressly prohibits work outside of the school year. So obviously, you'd want to read your contract. But speaking in general terms, this doesn't sound over the line.)

Door-to-door recruitment: Here's where you're going to get some sympathy from me. This is so wildly outside the scope of what your job is -- you're a teacher, not a salesman -- and it taps such a different set of skills and interests that I think it's reasonable to be rubbed the wrong way by it. This is where I'd focus, if I were going to tackle it. On the other hand, it sounds like you're working for a private or charter school, and they can have a very different ethos, one that expects everyone will pull together on matters like this.

Two pieces of advice for you:

1. If you want to change these new policies, you're going to have far better luck if you have other teachers on your side, dealing with it as a group, not individually. (No teachers' union, I'm assuming?)

2. If you decide to deal with it on your own, I'd say that you're likely to get better results if you explain to your new boss that some of the new duties conflict with other commitments you have and ask her to work with you on finding a resolution. I do not think you'll get great results if you just ask for additional compensation. And no matter what, leave the small things, like one four-hour Saturday meeting per year, out of it, since including that will detract from your case.

But ultimately it's your boss' prerogative to make these changes ... and yours to decide if you're still interested in working there under the new conditions.

By the way, of course it's not "right," in a larger societal sense, that the school doesn't reimburse you for expenses because they have no funds. That's common among teachers, and it sucks. I'm not endorsing it, by any means. But it does seem to be typical, and since you're asking me for career advice, I doubt you'll help your career any by refusing to play along with those practices.

Good luck!


nuqotw said...

Err... I'm not so sure about the visiting students before summer, even if the contract technically allows it. I suppose that perhaps it's because my teacher friends are young and/or are working in public school with a union, but many of them couldn't make those visits because summer is earmarked for second jobs, coursework to get them to the next salary step, etc. Not being on contract doesn't mean the teachers are sitting around with a bunch of free time. Maybe that changes after one moves up the pay scale.

Also, consider that many teachers could leave teaching and go get a (much) higher paying job in some sort of industry, and in many cases people have similar degrees. Teaching math pays a lot less than financial consulting; financial consulting eats up a lot more time. Implicitly, the deal here is that less pay = more discretionary time.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a bad case of "scope creep" to me. This school sucks and the new boss sucks. I'd hate to live under circumstances where my only option in this situation would be to suck it up.


Anonymous said...

I would also be concerned about safety issues while walking around doing door to door doing recruiting or even visiting a child's home--I don't care how "safe" the community is perceived as, this would really put you at risk if someone were to start giving you a hard time. I know a lot of school counselors no longer do "house calls" for this very reason. Dogs biting you, people getting angry that you're bothering them, people not believing you are who you say you are, possibly some pervert asking you to come in, this would concern me greatly. Your well-being comes before your boss, big time.

Anonymous said...

The school is having you visit students at home and doing door to door recruitment? Is the school having an enrollment problem? If so, could this affect your job security? Just something to keep in mind.

class-factotum said...

Hmm. I started a corporate job in Miami. Worked 9-5, then went home. Then I transferred to Memphis and got a new boss who got in at 6:00 a.m. and worked until at least 6:30 p.m. I started getting to work earlier and leaving later.

Then he made me go to two trade shows a year that were ON WEEKENDS. I had to work the booth all day, even though everyone else had to do only two-hour shifts, because there had to be a Spanish speaker there at all times, even though speaking Spanish wasn't even part of my job. Then I had to go out to supper with customers, which trust me, is still work.

And he made me TRAVEL at other times, which meant spending nights away from home and paying someone to feed my cats. Sometimes, I had to stay at crummy hotels because that's all there was in the small towns were our factories were. I had to eat at crummy restaurants (not much going on in Auburndale, Florida), which really ticked me off because I like my food.

None of this was in my job description, nor did I get extra pay for any of it. Instead, I got to keep my job. Welcome to the working world, honey.

Sally said...

As a teacher, I wouldn't visit students' homes, even if I did know the people really well. In my school district, that sort of thing is frowned upon due to safety and other liability reasons. I could see holding a meet the teacher event over several days in the classroom over the summer though. It just sends the right message to the parents and kids. It is also nice for the kids to know that you've actually physically seen their parents and have made that important connection.

I really think your supervisor/headmaster/principal or whatever this person's title is just trying to encourage the teachers to become more involved for the overall health of the school and your own classroom. I don't think it is meant to take away from your time, but I have worked for supervisors in this line of work who were simply tirants who wanted to micromanage our time, even outside of contract hours. I this is the case, don't worry, there are always teaching jobs available somewhere. Sometimes, you just need to wait it out until the right one opens up. If you are really unhappy and want to keep teaching, don't allow this one teaching job spoil your view of the field. There are bad schools to work for and there are cloud 9 schools to work for. It is like that no matter which career field you're in. We just end up having to wait out our contract time in order to make that switch without damaging your reputation(at least we do where I teach).

I agree with AAM. If you are working for a private school, this sort of "extra" work (teaching is loaded with extra work and very long days) may be necessary for maintaining enrollment. As a side job, I work as a consultant for a small private school. The private school market is very competitive in our area, and it takes going that extra mile to secure enrollment and to keep people aware that you exist and offer a better education than other schools. Parents who enroll their children with us stay with us because they receive "special" treatment and feel like they have a close personal connection with the educators and even the headmaster. Although our tuition is quite low compared to our competition, these parents are paying above what public school parents pay in their taxes to send their kids to your school (if private). They tend to expect to receive a whole host of extras above a great education. In a big way, they are your customers, and using business tactics in relating to your customers/families/potential families is perfectly valid.

Another thing that we do at the private school, some pubic schools do it as well, is to send out a welcome to my class card or letter to each student and another one to their parents. This is where we urge children and their parents to visit the classroom and school and meet with their teachers during the summer even before the general open house. Maybe you can politely suggest something like this to your supervisor. You could also explain that you don't feel comfortable visiting in someone's home, but you would be happy to meet with parents and students on school property over the summer during a certain week or whenever you feel best. I'd include in your suggestion with a listing of times and dates you would like to do this, but be flexible in case it isn't possible or would be too difficult in your chosen time window. Although it may be summer, schools tend to be very busy over the summer with educational/enrichment/remedial programs, technology updates, administrative planning for faculty, administrators may be taking classes or professional development courses (they must do that where I work), and building upgrades and maintenance may be in full swing.

Hope this helps, but don't get overly worried. You always have options.

average teacher salary said...

It's just getting worse and worse, I remember when the average salary for a teacher was as good as a nurse, not anymore, things are going to go downhill fast if someone doesn't do something soon. I guess we can hope for the best, but I'm thinking about going back to school to become a nurse, better pay anyway.