Hiring season is nearly upon us, with schools starting to hand out "letters of intent" or "contracts." Whatever the terminology used, schools are now testing the waters and making decisions with regard to staffing for the upcoming year. Some information, such as who has definitively stated they are not returning or who is not being asked to return, is already known to both employers and employees. However, for the most part, both sides of the negotiating table make assumptions from year to year. Administrators generally have a good sense of who may be looking or who is truly unhappy with the school. This can be done via a simple check-in letter asking: "Are you planning to return, planning to leave, looking at other options" or via informal conversations. Either way, schools generally know what positions they need to fill long before some faculty members may know of their own intentions for the upcoming year. This presents challenges on both sides, but more so for indecisive faculty. What are faculty members looking for and are they happy with their current school? Seems an easy enough question to answer, however, it is far more nuanced than "yes" or "no" can account for.
Many teachers are content, that is to say, they generally enjoy their position and feel stable and connected to the school. While content, they may simply see remaining in their current position as the best option when compared with the daunting task of doing a job search. Thus, many faculty members at many schools may remain for long periods of time without really thriving in their current setting. This, over time, will have a negative impact on faculty culture, eventually spilling over into organizational culture that will be seen and felt by the students. At that point, many schools have seen mass departures because of the creation of a negative environment.
Are teachers looking for more opportunity? Are they looking for more money? Better housing? Better location? A more flexible schedule for parenting? All of these possibilities are both real, and legitimate. However, as the cliche goes, "The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence." It is precisely this issue that complicates the decision process for faculty members. All boarding schools share many similarities in function and organizational structure. Thus, all boarding schools will share similar challenges in the area of faculty life. Boarding school teachers tend to live siloed lives in the "total institution" in which they work and live. While school X may seem so much "better" than school Y, the reality is that most faculty members don't really know. This takes me back to the title of this post.
If your current school is not offering you the life you are looking for, then why is that so? Are you feeling under-valued? If yes, is this accurate? Are you feeling over-worked? If yes, is that accurate? Are you not a good "fit" with the school? If yes, why or what about you and the school are not aligned? Does the location of the school not fit with your own hobbies and interests? Are you far removed from family and friends? Have life changes made a once "good fit" not so anymore?
These are all questions that faculty must address honestly with themselves before making a decision to remain at their current school or to take on a full job search. Outside input is important here, as being able to objectively answer some of these questions may be impossible. Reaching out to mentors and friends within the school can be of great help and is the best place to start. Once a faculty member can answer what is "wrong" with their current situation, they can then make an informed decision regarding their future. Sometimes, this reflective process leads faculty members to understand that their current situation is indeed not a good fit. Other times, this exercise allows them to realize that their current position is the good fit but may need some adjustment on either their part or the school. Either way, knowing what you are looking for must be clear before any contract is signed or search commenced.