The new year school year is approaching fast and you don’t have a teaching job yet. You’re starting to get nervous. You really want a stable long-term position, but it may not be in the cards this year. You’re asking, “should I take a temporary teaching job?”
As we approach a new school year, more and more positions will be designated as “temporary.” Schools are doing their last minute staffing to fill unexpected openings, newly declared leaves, or overflow positions.
This year, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty about reopening, I expect more jobs than ever to be designated temporary. No one is sure what school will look like this year, let alone in the future. Add in budget uncertainty, and districts will designate more positions temporary to help avoid teacher RIFs in the future.
Let’s look at temporary teaching jobs and why you might choose to take one.
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What Is a Temporary Teaching Position?
A temporary teaching position simply means that the position exists for a finite period of time. When the job runs out, it’s over. You won’t be automatically rolled into a position in the next year.
Temporary teaching positions are created when a position is funded for a finite time period (like a grant), is covering a leave of absence, or providing a class that is one-time only. I have also seen districts that designate any position hired after a certain date to be temporary.
- A teacher takes a leave of absence for one year. The teacher has rights to a job when they return, so the resulting position is designated temporary.
- A cluster of students have advanced to high-level computer science. This requires adding an additional class sequence for a semester, but then the enrollment will return to normal levels. A temporary teacher is hired.
- A teacher switches school districts right before school starts, leaving an unexpected opening. The district designates the position temporary for the coming year.
How is Temporary Different Than Probationary?
Great question! Neither is as secure as we’d like to think. My first two years as a teacher, I had a temporary position and then a contract probationary position. I ended both years without a teaching job.
Contrary to public perception, teacher jobs are not guaranteed, especially for the first few years. All teachers are vulnerable to reduction in force and furlough days. New teachers are especially vulnerable to these AND have very few assurances or protections.
In most cases, all newly hired teachers are probationary for the first few years. Districts can choose not to continue employment for a variety of reasons.
However, as long as a probationary teacher meets the district standards, they will continue forward in a teaching position without having to reapply.
A temporary teacher, by default, loses the position automatically and must apply for a new position.
A probationary teacher feels more stable and secure than a colleague in a temporary teaching position. For this reason, it’s great to get a contract teaching position even though you’ll be probationary for your first few years.
Factors to Consider
So, you don’t have a job yet, but you’ve been offered a temporary teaching position. Should you accept it? Here are some factors to consider.
Quick note: I wrote this grounded in thinking about my twenty years in education and “normal” school years – whatever that is. It’s important to note that right now we are in the middle of a pandemic. There may be an increased number of temp jobs due to opt-outs and funding uncertainty. Please factor in your health, review a district’s opening plan, and make the best choice for you and yours. Your health is worth the most.
First, and most importantly, do you have other likely options? Most teacher hiring is done in the spring and early summer.
As the summer goes on, and certainly once the school year begins, there are fewer chances to get a contract teaching job. A temporary teaching job might be your best option for the year.
- How many non-temporary teaching openings are still out there?
- How likely am I to get one?
- Would I prefer to sub or do a different job entirely for a year rather than accept a temporary position?
If it’s early in the summer, and you’ve been offered a position but it’s temporary you may want to hold off. If there are only a few jobs listed that fit your criteria, and you’ve been offered a temporary one you might want to take it.
Consider your options carefully.
Make sure you understand what benefits come with the temporary teacher position. Will you have medical insurance? Do you get leave? Will the position count for your teacher pension benefits?
In some districts, temporary teachers get the full slate of benefits. In others, they do not get benefits at all.
This difference may make your decision for you.
Another factor to consider is the duration of the temporary position. If it’s a year-long position, then you have some stability and will be looking for your next position during the optimal job hunt time.
If it’s short-term, you might find yourself unemployed in winter with very few teaching options available. Some choose to take stable employment in other fields for a year rather than end up unexpectedly unemployed.
You have to decide what’s worth it, but factor in the duration of the position and when you’ll next need a job.
Another Job Hunt
The biggest downside to a temporary teaching position is that you know you’ll be in the job hunt again, eventually. No matter what, the position will end and you’ll have to look for another job.
The right thing to do, would be to support inexperienced teachers by providing them with the most supportive assignments and class loads. Unfortunately, in far too many schools the opposite happens.
Teachers in temporary positions often end up with challenging class rosters, the worst teaching spaces, and inadequate instructional materials.
I hate it, but it’s a reality to consider. If you’re considering accepting a temporary position, don’t be afraid to ask the principal “what supports are available to help me make this work?”
Despite the downsides, there can be significant benefits to taking a temporary teaching job when starting out or making a move.
The silver lining of the employer making no promises of a future job also means you can walk away guilt free at the end of the temporary position, too. If you aren’t sure about the school, or district, a temporary job gives you a chance to test it out. You’ve got an automatic ability to leave the job with no awkwardness or reason to explain.
I’ve also known colleagues who take temporary positions as a way to try a different subject or level.
Of course, you can always leave a job just by resigning, so this is a minor benefit. Educators are natural people pleasers though, so the ability to leave without guilt or explanation may matter to some.
All teaching positions provide you with valuable experience, even if it’s temporary. If you had a hard time finding a job the first time around, a successful temporary assignment may be just the thing.
It provides valuable experience for your resume. Even better, you can answer questions in your next teacher interview using real-world examples.
The experience can also help you define what you want in future positions.
For a new teacher starting out, this is a real tangible benefit of even temporary teaching jobs. It will strengthen your future job hunting. A lot.
A temporary teaching job lets you meet other educators. You’ll get to know your principal, and demonstrate your skill. You’ll connect with other teachers. Even parents may become valuable connections for future employment.
All of these people can be valuable references and resources.
Networking matters in all professions, even in public education. You’ll be surprised how big your network becomes over an extended teaching career! It is an invaluable resource and a temporary position will help you start growing it.
Early Awareness Of Job Opportunities
Temporary teaching jobs often lead to permanent positions! If you perform well at a school, you’ll find that people inform you about openings before they become public.
It’s very common for a school to hire a temporary teacher into a permanent position as soon as there is an opening. Even if there isn’t a position in the school itself, your new colleagues may be able to help you get a job at another school in the district.
Most districts require temporary teachers to apply with external applicants, so there are no guarantees. But, you’ll have contextual knowledge, real world experience, and connections with the educators already in the building.
Don’t underestimate this benefit. Just don’t count on it – keep up the job hunt until you land something.
Answer: Should I Take a Temporary Teaching Job?
My answer: Yes in most cases.
Unless you have other options that are likely to lead to a contract position, there is no harm in taking a temp teaching position. It will provide you valuable experience, strengthen future interviews, and perhaps even lead directly to a permanent position.
While a temporary teaching job is slightly more vulnerable to economic conditions, the reality is teachers in their first three years are always somewhat vulnerable. If you continue to work, strengthen your skills, and build your professional network you will eventually end up in a secure long-term position.
Manny D. says
My wife’s district has had her in this perpetual Temporary teacher status for 5 years. She has been offered the same position at the same location for 5 straight years. When asked, HR says that are place-holders for staff on leave. My suspicion is that they might be doing something not allow by Ed Code. My wife is about to enter her 6th year of temporary
Oh, that is ugly. If it’s with the same district she may have options. Is there a union in the district she can talk with? I know in my state three years with the same employer will get you permanent status even if they keep designating the positions temporary for exactly this reason.