How to Deal with ‘The Price is Right Effect’ After the Successful Teacher Interview

EDU Edge friend Jennifer tweeted us a question … “Any advice on when you know the job is right for you and when you should wait for another offer?” … “I’m struggling with the size and location of the school.  I want to make sure I secure a job, but I also want to wait for larger school districts to complete their interview processes.”

Jennifer- Congratulations!  Teaching jobs are hard to come by these days.  The fact that you have an opportunity is absolutely fantastic!  It is likely that you have worked very hard to arrive at this point and you should view it as an accomplishment.

Although it may be taboo for many administrators or college professors to discuss such topics, it is a legitimate issues that many teaching candidates are faced with.  We like to refer to it as ‘The Price is Right Effect.’  You remember when Bob Barker would open up door number one or two, revealing a decent grilling and patio table combo?  The contestant was then faced with the decision of going with the grill combo, which was pretty good, or taking what was behind door number three.  If they went with number three, they risked getting a pack of tube socks, but they also had the possibility of winning a new Cadillac.  It can be a truly gut wrenching situation. You want to make the right call and we understand your anxiety.

So here is our view on these situations.  First, if the position is so detestable to you that you would be absolutely depressed getting out of bed every day to go to work, you should not do it.  Now keep in mind, this had better be a seriously uncomfortable situation for you to back away from a position.  This is not a threshold to take lightly.  You are giving up a lot by walking away from a job in hand including:

  • The opportunity to build your resume, experience and references
  • Regular income
  • Possible service credits in a state pension system or 401k savings
  • Years of experience that would translate to extra teaching steps if you eventually move to another school
  • And much more

If you walk away with it, you must also be completely at peace with the possibility that you may go another year or few years without another opportunity.  In other words, you better have opened the door with the tube socks in order to consider walking away from a job.

Ok, so we answered your basic question and now we can hear all the “Edgies” tweeting their next question already, so we might as well tackle it right now: Assuming the job you take is not completely detestable, can you still keep an eye out for your dream job in the same hiring season?  We say yes, with some VERY significant asterisks added.  Here they are:

*One: You must first research the laws in your state about leaving a teaching job once you have made a verbal or written commitment to an employer.  These vary from state to state and can vary within state for private, charter and traditional public schools.  In some states, you do not have to have the blessing of the school you are leaving, but they can choose to impose a waiting period (usually around thirty to forty-five days).  In other states, you cannot leave at all during that school year unless released by the school or district.  If you are not released and you leave, you could face the school filing a complaint with the state education department and suspending your certification for a period of time.  Be sure to also carefully read the language of any contract you sign.  You may face certain financial penalties for an early departure.  If you are not familiar or comfortable with the repercussions, do not explore another position during the same hiring season.

*Two: Do not apply or interview for any job after you have secured the first unless you are confident it is your dream job.  Your moment for taking any interview just for the experience has ended.  You should only look at something you consider to be a significant upgrade from what you have been offered. 

*Three: Be sure if you are offered an interview, you are upfront about the fact that you have already accepted a position at another school.  Any surprises could be viewed as deceit.  You need to be honest at the right moment and let them know about the other offer.  They need to weigh this as a part of their decision because there may be implications for how soon they would be able to employ you.  This must be done delicately and worded very carefully.

*Four: Be prepared for the possibility that the school you have committed to may find out you are interviewing, and if they have the ability, may separate with you.  Unofficially it could play a role in your tenure status and relationships with colleagues.  Again, the laws of when and the thresholds for employers to separate from teachers vary from state-to-state and you should become acquainted with the risks.

There is no doubt this is a dicey affair.  Only enter into it if you have calculated all of the risks and benefits.  At the same time, our experience has been that most, but certainly not all, administrators would rather move on to another candidate than force a person who does not want to work for them to be at their building or district.  Forcing people to work for you does not generally yield a highly motivated employee or an effective addition to the team dynamic.

Finally, it is certainly a difficult decision to decide whether your current offer is a fit for you and the safe bet to take.  But, teachers become attracted to different settings for different reasons.  Some people aspire to teach in small rural schools, others city schools, and still others in suburban school districts.  Some feel a calling to teach in schools with faith communities, while others are energized and rewarded by serving in public or non-sectarian settings.  While you may have that perfect setting in mind, be sure you are evaluating the setting based on what satisfies your needs and preferences and not what other people tell you is important. And do not forget that multitudes of teachers out there found themselves being forced to accept a teaching job in a school they thought they would be less than perfect … and now could never be dragged away by a team of a thousand horses.  If you take the job offered and that dream job does not come by this hiring season, it is likely you will know by year two or three whether you have fallen in love with your current setting with all its imperfections or whether you need to more aggressively search for another position.  In the end, if you do leave, you will have gained many benefits for having worked a full-time teaching job prior to the dream job.

Good luck to you Jennifer!  And, good luck to all of you following The EDU Edge.  Please come back and let us know how it went so we can all learn together. 

Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge

(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions … we’re on Twitter, Facebook and you can email us at info@theEDUedge.com.  Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome.  We’ll do our best to respond.  We welcome dialogue from others going through the same process.)

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