Non-Normal Teaching Jobs (and Why They’re Worth It)

From time to time, school boards will put up job postings for “non-normal” teaching work: after-school courses, home-instruction students, summer school, and the like. A lot of teachers are apprehensive about applying to these jobs.
“What about my other part-time job?”
“What if this takes away opportunities to apply for ‘real’ teaching jobs?”
“How will this be beneficial to the experience I could bring to a future job?”
“What if this gets in the way of other work I could be doing during school hours?”

If you’re asking yourself these types of questions, you have to be honest with yourself; all you’re asking is “What if something better comes along?” And that’s not a good attitude to have towards these “non-normal” teaching jobs. Sure, they’re not a normal classroom setting (hence my super creative label of “non-normal”), but they’re very beneficial. Here’s why I think that:

  • These jobs give you the chance to develop lessons and units you may not get anywhere else.
    When I taught an after-school course, it was to help prepare Grade 8 students for the transition into Grade 9 at a new school. Sure, there were 80 students and 2 teachers, but the other teacher and I had a lot of liberty with developing the programs we wanted to teach. I had the opportunity to develop a really complex and in-depth unit on researching and writing an essay. Sure, I’ve taught essay writing before, but the detail we went into was something I couldn’t have done with the time and curriculum constraints of the regular classroom setting.
  • These jobs give you the chance to hone your one-on-one instruction skills.
    Home-instruction means that, for whatever reason, a student needs to be taught at home (or in a public meeting place, but not in a school setting). You’re planning and programming for one child. Sometimes you have to stick to curriculum expectations (for example, if the kid is out of school after suffering an injury), and sometimes you’re free to plan based on ability (for example, working with a severely delayed child). Either way, you’re working one-on-one with someone, and for a lot of substitute teachers, this is a rarity. Substitute work is very often supervising independent desk work. There isn’t a lot of opportunity to work individually with students, and when there is, it is limited because you don’t know the students well enough to really address their needs and abilities like the regular classroom teacher can. Being able to work one-on-one with students is a very important skill to have, and taking a home-instruction contract will give you the chance to work on that skill.
    “But wait!” you might be saying, “I don’t want to miss out on a potential full day of work just to work with someone for an hour and a half at their house!” To that I say phooey. You’re still working for the same school board, and they tend to be understanding and accommodating when you are expected to be somewhere for them.
    And take it from someone who has had two home-instruction students. These students tend to be the ones who need the support and care of a trusted adult the most.
  • These jobs don’t get a lot of applicants.
    Yup. Not a lot of people apply for these non-normal jobs, and likely for the dumb reasons I outlined above. If you apply for one of these types of jobs, there’s a very good chance you’re going to get it (or at least an interview and the chance to network a bit). By applying to the jobs no one else wants, you’re making yourself vital and necessary to your school board. Principals remember that kind of thing.

And if you’re using another part-time job as an excuse to not apply to a teaching job, you need to reevaluate why you have that part-time job. Trust me. I had a part-time job for 5 of my teaching years. Sometimes it was a tricky balance to strike: working a full teaching day, leaving right at the bell, driving an hour, working another 4-4.5 hours, driving almost another hour home, doing it all again the next day. It’s not fun, but I wasn’t in the financial place to give up the part-time job. However, I never let it get in the way of teaching work, and neither should you.
(More on part-time jobs next week soon!)

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