Recently, our school hired a newbie teacher–fresh out of college–and an early graduate at that–only 21 years old. We also have a young career-switcher teacher, who is starting as a paraprofessional as she switches into teaching. Combining conversations I’ve had with those newcomers as well as with my students who are asking career-specific questions as they ponder whether to pursue teaching, I thought I would answer some of the questions I’ve heard them ask.
All of these questions depend on the district you work for — so it is important to do your research locally and ask questions to your principal and human resource contact when you do get hired. If you are unsure of what questions to ask HR as a new teacher, this list can serve as a great starting place!
Do teachers get paid over the summer?
Most districts provide an option for teachers to spread their salary payments out over 12 months, which would guarantee a paycheck throughout the summer months. Other districts pay over 9 or 10 months, and some districts provide teachers with a choice.
My district used to allow teachers to choose a 9-month or 12-month pay option, but now we are all required to get paid on a 12-month schedule, which I love. Yes, while I have technically earned my money before summer begins, I prefer a stable income all year–it helps significantly with budgeting.
When do new teachers get paid?
This is an important question to check with your human resources department on. In my district, teachers are not paid until September 20th, even though they have been working since August. This can be a tough month for teachers, who may have rent and other bills due before their first paycheck kicks in. If you are a district that is year-round or that pays more frequently than once a month, you might receive your paycheck earlier than that. Ultimately, it’s important that you ask human resources when you meet with them.
Do teachers get health insurance during summer?
Most teachers that I’ve worked with and in districts I’ve worked in do continue health benefits through the summer. It’s important, again, to ask this question when you are hired to make sure your benefits are covered through summer.
How many hours a day do teachers work?
Most teachers work between 7 and 8 contracted hours a day; however, many teachers work far more than this when grading, planning, and extracurriculars are factored in. Each district will have different working hours as determined by the district’s policies and teacher contract.
What time do teachers arrive at school?
As a new teacher, it’s extremely important to ask your HR or your principal this question. Teacher start times will vary from school to school. Some teachers start at 8:00, others at 7:35, others at 7:55, others at 8:15, etc.
I’ve worked in schools with a range of start times and with start times that change every year, depending on the bell schedule that our administration adopts. Even with a set start time, many teachers arrive before their required time so they can prepare their classrooms and lessons.
Do teachers get vacation time?
Teachers get predetermined breaks such as Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break, Presidents’ Day, etc. In addition, many teachers receive a limited amount of personal days each year that can be used for vacations outside predetermined times.
My school provides teachers with 3 personal days a year cumulative towards 5, which means if I don’t use my personal days, I can save them for the next year. After accumulating 5 days, the remaining days turn into sick leave. It’s important that you ask and find out your school’s vacation policy and what happens to unused days.
Many schools also have restrictions on personal days, requiring special permission for taking vacation the first and last week of school as well as vacation bordering a predetermined break, like Spring Break. If you know you have an important event around one of those times, talk to your principal as soon as possible.
Do teachers get more vacation time with years of service?
This would depend on the district, but I’ve not heard of teachers receiving more vacation time with additional years of service. Typically, teachers all receive the same amount of personal days, but as always, check with your district to find out.
Do teachers get paid during spring break?
Typically, spring break is not factored into a teacher’s salary. Instead, teachers are paid for their contracted school days. Some districts require a teacher to work 180 days, others 185 days, and others into the 190s or 200s. Breaks are typically not factored in to a salary.
How many hours a week are teachers contracted to work?
Most teachers are contracted to work between 35 to 40 hours a week. However, many teachers spend more time than this on grading, planning, and preparation outside of their contracted hours.
How many days a year does a teacher work?
Check with your individual school on this. My school recently added 3 additional contracted days, and now we are up to 186. A previous district I worked for required teachers to work 190. I’ve also known districts to have teachers work 182. This is an important question to ask when you are hired or if you are deciding between two different school districts.
What is a teacher sick bank and how can I sign up?
Some districts offer a teacher sick bank, and when you are a new teacher, you might be given the option to donate time to the sick bank. Most times, this is a one-time offer, and you donate right away when you are hired. Because the donation is so low (often one day) and the reward so high if you ever (hopefully not) need to use it, signing up can be a great benefit for you. You are also taking part in helping fellow teachers in need.
Do schools offer housing assistance for teachers?
Some school districts provide housing assistance such as district-housing. This is rare, but it’s worth asking about. HR might also be able to provide leads on less expensive housing for teachers. Some cities and towns have cheaper apartment options for essential workers like teachers.
Does the school offer tuition reimbursement and what is the process for using that?
Many new teachers focus solely on the starting salary, which is important, but they forget to investigate other benefits such as tuition reimbursements. Some schools offer a small stipend each year for continuing education and other districts provide a significant tuition reimbursement for a masters or doctorate degree. It’s important to ask and find out what your options are.
In my first two years at my current district, I left money on the table by not applying for tuition reimbursements and reimbursements for the professional organizations I joined (NCTE).
How do I change salary lanes as a teacher?
As a teacher, one way to move up in salary is to earn credits or an advanced degree. Typically, this will slide you up on the salary scale; however, you must pay close attention to the process for this. I have a colleague that missed the deadline by two days, and this resulted in thousands of dollars lost by forgoing a lane change.
Sometimes the paperwork and evidence gathering (transcripts, etc.) can take longer than you anticipate, and you want to make sure you are meeting the requirements on time. Ask HR about the process as early as you can.
These are just a FEW starter questions that I’ve heard newly hired teachers discussing. Consider your particular needs and what additional questions you might need answered.