Teacher quality of life has quickly become a hot button issue as teacher retention at high- performing, “No Excuses” charter schools has taken center stage. Having taught at three very different schools, I have uncovered five factors that can have an impact on teacher quality of life.
1) Planning Minutes Per Week
Planning time, or lack thereof, can be the difference between getting by until summer break or thriving at a school. Knowing on the front end the number of minutes or periods, as well as any standing responsibilities, gives a lot of insight into how much work you’ll have to take home each night. Specifically, find out about any meetings you have during your planning time, whether or not you need to enter in behavior data, or if your planning periods will be sacrificed when a team member is out sick.
2) After School and Weekend Responsibilities
School hours are increasing across the board, and it’s not unusual for me to be with students from 7:15am until 5:30-6pm each day. Add on meetings two days a week and Saturday School once a month, and it’s very easy to let a schedule overwhelm you. Clarity around when you are expected to be at school allows you to be more efficient with your hours and work-life balance.
3) Access to Technology
This year I have rolled out a number of blended learning programs to help build my students conceptual math skills. I am only able to do this because I know that I have complete access to a set of working Chrome books every day. Knowing exactly what sort of tech access you have allows you to get creative with your lessons and ensures that you don’t get left with out-of-date technology.
4) Substitute Policy
What happens when someone is sick? Teachers get sick, relatives go to the hospital, and once in a while, people will have to miss a day of school. Does your school have a stable of substitutes? Will other teachers have to cover your class? In my experience, teachers are an incredibly selfless group, but people will inevitably be out of work. It is vital that schools have a clear plan to cover absences that are humane for teachers and ensure that students are still learning.
5) How Discipline Works
My mantra for my friends who are considering new schools is: what is their discipline policy; explain it in two sentences. With all of the options for how student behavior is managed, it’s critical to learn what happens to students who are not meeting expectations, when they are removed from the classroom, and what absolute deal breakers are for your school building.
What are your deal breakers? What do you look for in a school to support quality of life for teachers?