Help! I Keep Getting Mandatory Summer PD Piled On


Dear We Are Teachers,

I got hired in March by the same school where I did my student teaching. I was really looking forward to resting up this summer. But three times since I signed my contract, I have gotten emails from the district or my principal about mandatory professional development we’re expected to attend before school starts. I don’t care that I didn’t have plans this summer—not working was my plan! Should I say I’m busy, or should I plan on attending in order to give a good first impression?

—CAN YOU TELL YOUR BOSS TO LEAVE YOU ALONE?

DEAR C.Y.T.Y.B.T.L.Y.A.,

First, some things you need to figure out:

1. When does your contract start?

Look at your actual contract. If it starts in August or September, they shouldn’t be asking you to work before then. You’re not on the clock yet.

2. How “mandatory” is this PD?

I know you said they’re mandatory. But sometimes principals will blast out upcoming PD to staff as “an amazing opportunity” without it being an actual expectation.

Here are some questions to help you determine whether they’re necessary or recommended: Are these necessary for you to be able to teach your course (e.g., district-mandated study sessions for a certification test you need to be able to teach) or something that’s expected of current staff? Is it just you (and other new teachers) on this email, or is it all staff? If you’re having trouble figuring this out, you can always post anonymously in our Helpline Facebook group to get some live feedback.

3. Would any of the PD really help you out?

OK, hear me out. I am VERY pro-boundaries when it comes to teacher summers. But some PD might have really valuable information/training that will be critical for you this school year. For example, I wouldn’t miss training that is super-specific to your content area, like AP or IB training. Another thing you won’t want to skip is training on any new technology, software, or LMS systems your district might be adopting. You don’t want to walk in the first week back and be the only one who doesn’t know how to use the new grade book, smart board, etc.

I think there’s no harm in reaching out to your department chair, mentor teacher, or even principal to say, “I’m really excited about the all the PD opportunities coming up. Some of the timing conflicts with summer plans I’d made prior to knowing these dates. Can you help me prioritize which of these would be most crucial to me as a first-year teacher in the fall?”

They don’t need to know that your summer plans were sleeping until noon.

Pro tip for next summer: Don’t check your email!

Dear We Are Teachers,

This past school year was the worst in my career for multiple reasons. At my yearly checkup the first week in June, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’m in the early stages but am very worried about how the continued stress of school will impact my body. I don’t want to quit at this point. But how does one just “lower their stress” when so many of the contributing factors are out of our control?

—STRESSED FOR SUCCESS

Dear S.F.S.,

Well isn’t that the question of the century for teachers (and maybe everyone)? First, just know I’m sending so much love and light your way. It’s a weighty diagnosis. Plus, I’m sure all the thinking, planning, and evaluating you’re having to do surrounding it is its own beast.

Second, ask your doctor(s) for accommodations that could make teaching with this diagnosis easier for you. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) helps guarantee that your doctor’s recommendations are followed by the district. Some accommodations I know of are permission to be sitting instead of standing, time and support for medical appointments, and reducing before- and after-school meetings.

Also, don’t be afraid to think “big” in terms of this new information. I hear you that you don’t want to quit. Maybe you might want to try a new role that keeps you in a school but takes you out of the classroom. Or maybe a teaching role that puts you with smaller groups of students. Maybe you want to try the change of scenery at a new school, or work somewhere closer to home. Your health comes first—don’t be hesitant about making that a priority.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I had a great Zoom interview with a school a month ago and accepted their offer. The school is three hours away so I have plans in the works to move. Then, I joined the Facebook group for teachers in the district. When I introduced myself and said where I got hired, several former teachers from that school sent me DMs about their horror stories with the school’s abusive principal. She yells, pits teachers against each other, singles teachers out to shame them in meetings, etc. I’m completely freaking out and feel like I made a huge mistake. In-service starts in a little over a month, and I can lose my certification if I quit at this point. What would you do?

—I FEEL SICK

Dear I.F.S.,

Try not to panic. You have some options here.

If you haven’t signed a contract:

You have no obligation to stay. Sure, it’ll be an awkward conversation to have to retract your agreement, but the weight of temporary awkwardness is nothing in comparison to the anxiety you might have about having hitched your wagon to a really rough school year.

If you have already signed your contract:

Contact a representative for a union or professional organization in your district. See what their recommendations are.

If you’re stuck, then you’ll have to decide whether to keep your license and stick it out for a year or deal with the consequences of breaching your contract. You could also try finding a private school—they often don’t require state certification, so it wouldn’t matter if yours gets taken. I can’t make that decision for you.

I will say that my own two years at a really bad school changed my life in some really positive ways. It made me a stronger, more aware, and more resilient person—plus, it opened my eyes to so many things about leadership, educational inequality, and integrity. Be open to the possibility that even in a school with a less-than-stellar reputation, you can do meaningful work and achieve powerful things.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal made the announcement that our middle school would be banning phones altogether next year. Teachers, admin, and staff were thrilled. Parents and students were immediately outraged at the cell phone ban. Apparently, there’s been so much backlash that our principal announced at our faculty meeting that he will allow phones between classes and during lunch. That is our policy now, which students totally disregard. How can we convince him that this is worth doubling down on? It would make teaching a hundred times easier next year.

—GROW A SPINE, PRINCIPAL MINE


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