What to Do When Your Teaching Contract is Non-Renewed

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/High School Principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership
Frustrated teacher sitting on a desk in front of a chalkboard.

So, you have just gotten word that your current teacher contract is not going to be renewed for next school year. There is no doubt that a swarm of emotions are pouring in on you. Therefore while trying to restrain from overreacting to the situation, what should you do? After all, this is your chosen profession, right? This is also your livelihood, right? Questions of what to do now are flooding in along with the emotions of just hearing the news. Here are some options that hopefully can help during this obviously difficult time.

Submit Your Letter of Resignation

First, if this news has come to you but you do not have it officially in writing from your superior, take immediate charge of the situation. Go ahead and submit your letter of resignation. If you can resign before non-renewal is official, you can avoid having it on your professional record. Future administrators might want to know why you resigned, and you can explain that to them during the interview process. However, if you are officially non-renewed, that will be on your record from now on. Get in front of the situation so you can handle it in your own way down the road.

See What Your Union Options Are

A classroom teacher that has been non-renewed should check to make sure all legal protocols have been followed by the district. Different states have different rules pertaining to non-renewal and/or collective bargaining agreements. Make sure all your legal rights are in place. If you are in a teachers union, contact your representative to help you ensure that you are being treated fairly. Also, follow the wise counsel of your union representative as to what your next steps should be. Often, the best course of action is to simply hold your head up and move on.

Ask Colleagues for Recommendation Letters

Hopefully during your tenure you have cultivated good relationships with colleagues in your school. Contact those that you have a good relationship with and ask them to write recommendation letters for you. Future administrators often look favorably to peer recommendations as those peers often see the “real you” in the classroom and in the school.

Start Your Search for a Better Fit Right Away

As a now resigned or non-renewed teacher, you should begin to research what career opportunities are out there that might be a better fit for you. In looking for the right fit, take the time to evaluate yourself and decide what exactly you want in your next career opportunity. You can research online, as well as through any people networks you have cultivated while in your current situation. Once you find that “better fit”, pursue it early and attempt to gain new employment or other options as early as possible.

Explore Private or Charter Schools

If you resigned or were non-renewed from a public school, you might want to explore private or charter schools as a possible option. Generally these schools are smaller, and in your search you might find that “better fit” described above. Private and charter schools often do not have the same qualification requirements as the public setting which could yield better employability options for you. Remember to use people you know or have networked with. Often by knowing someone in a private or charter school situation, you can gain an interview simply by their recommendation to their superiors.

Embrace a Growth Mindset

While the negative impact of a non-renewal can be devastating to someone, it is important, as mentioned earlier, to take control of your situation and have a growth mindset. As hard as it can be, try to put your emotions to the side and be realistic about your current situation. You may never agree with the decision that has been made, but to dwell on your emotions will not lead to a positive outcome. Instead, look at your situation as much as you can through the eyes of the decision maker that non-renewed you. Make up your mind that you are going to grow and become stronger and a better teacher through this experience. Look at yourself honestly and, regardless of how you feel, determine within yourself that you are going to grow stronger through this. Also, try to be honest with yourself and resolve to strengthen any professional and personal areas of your life that need to be strengthened to make you a better educator or that led to not receiving a continuing contract.

A resignation under duress or a letter of non-renewal does not have to be career ending. In fact, like many negative situations in life, how we respond to them is what ultimately defines us. As a teacher, you must evaluate why you became a teacher. You must ask yourself, is this still what I want? If the answer is yes, this is a time for you to reflect and respond appropriately for yourself and for the future students that will be under your care. The old saying, “what doesn’t kill you only serves to make you stronger”, definitely applies here. Take this time to reflect and make up your mind as to what you want next and then go for it. Do not let this negative event define the rest of your life. If you still consider yourself a teacher, then go out there and teach!

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