Getting Your Foot in the Door: Temporary Teachers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this post are reflections of my own personal experience and do not reflect the district and/or schools for which I work. I am writing honestly with only the intention to inform other new teachers what I feel is best for my career in hopes that it might be useful to them with their decisions.

So in our district (and most others in the area) the short term and/or part time contract is the best, if not only, way to break through the hiring barriers.

This means a lot of positives: trying out new grades and/or schools, learning the ins and outs of teaching without having the stress of full year plans or full time responsibilities, making relationships with a lot of new students, learning from many different teachers and administrators, and building up your “teacher tool box” of lesson plans and ideas.

It also comes with a lot of negatives: a LOT of goodbyes, inconsistency for students (having multiple teachers in the classroom), sometimes the stress of finishing assessment or report cards on short notice, and job uncertainty – the constant, sometimes terrifying, waiting game of “what’s next?”

I just finished my second contract since I’ve started teaching and thought this would be an appropriate time to give my advice on contracts (mostly applicable to our district but maybe some advice will be general to others)


My two vastly different temporary contracts…

Contract #1 – Almost full year (Oct-June) and a 0.246 FTE (which means 0.246 of a full time contract – basically a quarter of a full time)

Pros: I was at an amazing school with awesome admin and teachers who were really supportive! It was my first year and I got a contract for 9 months (pretty great start). I taught French and English to one class of grade 8 students so they felt like my own class for the year. I learned how to do report cards and assessment on a small scale (a quarter of the work basically). It was nice to have some time to be a substitute teacher while I had my own class – good balance. I also ended up subbing at the same school a lot so I got to teach my class and the other grade 8’s a lot! Being at one school (and not subbing) meant that I was able to coach sports – which I love! And career wise, I got almost a full year of seniority… priceless!

Cons: I worked two partial afternoons and then a partial day so money was tight. It was really tough to find subbing shifts for the half days I was available. I didn’t work a single full week from November until April – Not fun for the bank account. When I did work full weeks I felt like I was running around like a mad woman all the time between schools. My prep time was paid out instead of scheduled in so on weeks when I was subbing a lot my prep time took over my evenings and weekends – not my preferred balance. It was tough to make important meetings, parent teacher interviews, and other staff events when I was subbing at different schools.

Advice: If it’s your first year teaching – Take it! There really isn’t anything more valuable than a full year of seniority when you are just starting out. It was a bit tough financially but I have no regrets about taking that contract. Now that I’m in my second year though I don’t apply for anything that isn’t a full day of work (e.g. a 0.2 contract that is just Fridays I would apply for but a 0.2 that is Monday and Tuesday afternoons I would not).

Contract #2: Full time (1.0 FTE), originally 3 weeks extended to 9 weeks

Pros: Obviously I loved my class – huge pro! And again I loved the school, staff and administration (and no I would not just say that without meaning it – some schools don’t have the same feeling for me). I taught three subjects to two different grade eight classes which gave me a lot of practice with each lesson and unit. I had awesome support and got to do some team teaching. It was a new school that I had only been to briefly so it was great to make new connections. With the six week extension I was able to move into some project-based learning for a few weeks. And… I didn’t have to keep my phone on me all day every day waiting for subbing calls.

Cons: It’s hard pouring your heart and soul into a class and then having to say goodbye part way through the year… Really hard! Another con is the unknown of when it will end which makes it really tough to teach the way you want to or normally teach (e.g. I like to focus on project-based learning over longer periods of time). It takes about a month to get settled with a class I find so if you are only there for a month then you don’t really get to that point. Job postings sprung up a few times during this short term contract and I never knew if I should apply or not (everyone told me to apply) because I didn’t want to have this happen again, and I didn’t want to have to go start another class when there was potential of staying in the class I was in for longer.

Advice: I think it depends on the time of year these short term contracts get posted… This one was in sort of the last main round of postings for the full year so there wasn’t too much coming up after that. At the beginning of September I probably wouldn’t take something so short if I had a chance at getting something else because kids don’t need to feel that sense of abandonment – especially at the beginning of the school year! Overall I am 100% glad I took the contract and I would definitely apply to something like that under similar circumstances.

Obviously this advice is just what worked for me and for everyone it will be very differently depending on what you get offered. Some people really just like to be a sub until they get their full time contract and that works as well! I really love building those relationships at least for a while because I think it makes the subbing more meaningful.

From our district or similar – What contracts have you taken and were they worthwhile?

From another district – How does your system work? Do you have to work your way up with small contracts?


One thought on “Getting Your Foot in the Door: Temporary Teachers

  1. Pingback: Lucky Number Four | Tale of Two Teachers

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