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Is It Panic Time?

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About this time every year, I start to see a few educators who are very worried about their employment prospects for the next academic year. Inevitably, the conversation includes a question about whether it is time to panic if one has not secured a position for the fall. The answer is "no."

Most states are wrestling with budget problems. Public PK-12 education in my state (Kansas) has taken quite a hit in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with a sizable decrease in per-student state funding to districts. Things are going to be tough for a while, it appears, with no real definition of "a while." However, our state budget was approved only last week. Hiring of educators has been very slow, but partly because districts really had no idea what their own budgetary situations were going to be. That picture is a little clearer for most of them today than it was only a week ago. Some hiring that was on hold because of fiscal concerns may now ensue. Though there will not be very many new jobs, there will be some replacement positions.

Staffing is determined by enrollment, at least to a significant degree. While schools have had to reorganize, rearrange, and reconfigure, most have some guidelines on class sizes. When the unexpected occurs with enrollment figures, positions are reallocated. This may happen at any time during the year, though it is most common about the time school starts in the fall. Granted, with finances the way they are, these situations are less common that four or five years ago, there is still some adjustment in staffing that occurs as enrollments settle.

Panic is never a good thing. It only hurts your chances of being employed. Panic puts you in a defensive and negative state of mind. This will always be reflected in your interactions with others, including hiring officials of potential new employers. Pardon the analogy, but just as "dogs can smell fear," administrators can sense desperation, despite your best efforts to disguise it. Find harmless ways to vent your frustrations and counter stress (not on your fear-smelling dog, please), and remain aggressive and positive in your search.

Consider alternatives - the Plan B "what if" scenario - and lay some groundwork. There has been some good advice on that topic in this blog in recent weeks. Keep your eyes and ears open to new possibilities. I think we would probably all agree that not all education candidates are going to get teaching contracts this year, but it is not now, nor is it ever, time to panic.

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