New Year’s Resolutions

As we look to the start of 2010, and the rest of the school year, it’s a good time to review some professional tips and duties that can make our jobs a little smoother. Some of these suggestions are contractual obligations, others are simply good ideas for anyone in our line of work.

1. Know when your teaching certificate expires and how many credits you need between now and then.

2. Know who your building’s association rep. is and go to him/her first when you have a question.

3. Keep a log of all your parent contacts. Phone calls or emails to parents are a great way to communicate both positive and negative messages, and keeping track is an important factor in your evaluation and recording student progress.

4. Be careful what you post on your Facebook or MySpace site. Many teachers across the country (not in Parchment) have landed in hot water because of items posted. Be sure your “friends” don’t post inappropriate details about you (or a picture of you) that could also be accessed by a student or parent.

5. Remember that your classroom and/or office space technically belongs to the school district. Avoid keeping personal items where they could cause embarrassment. Never leave confidential office messages out where students or visitors could read them.

6. The same lack of privacy and security applies to your computer, shared server space and email. A good rule of thumb is that your computer files stored on district computer equipment are no more secure than paper files in an unlocked desk drawer. Email is not any more “private” than the things in your office mailbox. (It’s okay to conduct personal business from your school computer during unassigned time, but be aware that it is not private. It’s NOT okay to do political business from the school system, and is often a bad idea to do association communications this way.)

7. While it can be confusing, be aware of the requirements and contract provisions regarding use of sick leave, personal business leave, and funeral leave. Neither a sick day nor a personal business day typically requires explanation — but that doesn’t always stop principals (or others) from asking. If sick leave extends beyond three days in a row, the Family Medical Leave Act does require an explanation. Most sickness, however, is not FMLA covered — like a common cold or the flu. Also read your contract regarding the number of allowed days for funeral attendance and/or preparations. (A complete electronic copy of the contract is on this site.)

8. The Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act protects students and their personal educational records from public exposure. Never send an email with a student’s name in the subject line. Never leave IEPs or other confidential student records in a visible place. Post student grades with ID numbers rather than names.

9. Be sure to check the contract time lines for taking grad. classes and requesting tuition reimbursement. The request must be made before the start of class, and online classes have slightly different rules.

10. Don’t try to be a lone ranger! If your principal asks you to do something that seems unethical or violates the contract, obey first but ask questions as soon as possible. There are many gray areas in our contract, but something known as “past practice” governs those areas. If the administration decides to change something they’ve been doing for a long time, they have to give 30 day’s notice. We don’t work in isolation — teaming with other teachers and courses can enhance our students’ learning, and teaming with association members who have some experience can enhance our professional standing. Never be afraid of asking a “dumb” question — don’t we always tell our students that?

I hope you have a great 2010. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call or email or even leave a comment on this site. (Comments on this site are never posted publicly until after I read them and decide whether or not to publish them.)

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