Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teachers: What You Can Do If You've Been Laid Off

In the wake of all the craziness around our economic climate, many folks in education are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. And without a job.

This is not the time to sit around and wait for something to happen. This is the time to MAKE something happen.

Here are some ideas:

Get involved with Twitter and other Social Networks, like ASCD Edge, Blogs, Nings, etc. Integrating yourself into these networks works for you in multiple ways. For one, it gives you a continuous feed of resources to help hone your professional practice, whether you're in the classroom or not. It also allows opportunities for you to interact and strategize with people that are either in the same boat as you or at least have similar experiences. Additionally, I've gotten jobs just from participating in these networks. You can too.

Create an online portfolio, with visual (meaning photos) and concrete evidence of:
  • Planning and Preparation - This includes Lesson Plans you've created, evidence of assessments you've created that are aligned with state standards (both summative and formative!), statements and reflections about instructional design and your knowledge of content and resources.
  • The Classroom Environment you create - Evidence may include your student management/procedures plan, photos of the layout of your classroom with a statement about why you set it up that way, statements about how you create respect and rapport with your students, and how you manage student behavior.
  • Instruction and Assessment - You need to provide examples of student work (with names whited out) with feedback about what next steps should be, how you support questioning techniques in your classroom and how you help students arrive at connections or bring collective experiences together, how you provide opportunities for multiple groupings and collaborative/peer interactions, and statements about how you are flexible and adaptable to many different situations both with students and with those you work with.
  • Professional Responsibilities - You should provide evidence that you have participated in professional development, with statements about how that PD informed or transformed your instructional practice. You should provide evidence of parent communication that is beyond report cards. You should provide evidence that you make contributions to your school and the district in which you work and that you are a reflective practitioner. (Meaning that you think about lessons, students, opportunities, your whole teaching experience, and make plans for transforming your practice on a regular basis.)

More about the Framework for Professional Practice on Charlotte Danielson's homepage.

You could use a wiki or a WIX website to easily put this together.

Make sure you are on the sub lists of all the schools in your area. A day of pay is better than a day of being a coach potato wallowing in wishes. Subbing also gives you an opportunity to network in other school systems, and get valuable experience about different school dynamics and diverse student populations.

Consider the breadth of your expertise and be a consultant. Vistaprint offers free business cards and there are multiple places to create a web presence to talk about what you are good at and could contribute to education. I would suggest reading books by Jim Knight about Instructional Coaching, or Doug Reeves on providing PD with student results. Many of the local teacher's centers here in New York are actively looking for folks to lead workshops. You need a solid plan in an area of need, and you're good to go!

Go back to school or add additional certificate areas. The more educational experience you have and the more certificates you have, the more valuable you are. If you can survive in several niches, versus being pigeonholed in one area/grade level, you make it easier for a district to keep you in the event of layoffs.

Consider tutoring at home. Create a business card at Vistaprint and/or advertise in your local paper about your services. Many parents are on the lookout for qualified afterschool instructors--what would be better than a certified teacher?

Keep in mind the story of the Little Engine That Could. If you think you can, then you will. This is a hard time for many, but it is definitely not the time to lose your motivation. Try to stay positive and make small steps to improving your outlook, your value, and ultimately, your opportunities. This is a time to shine, to emit a light that everyone can see. Visibility is everything right now.

image made with BigHugeLabs Motivational Poster application and Windows Vista default "Dock" image.

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