6 Mistakes that Prevent a Teacher from Earning a Promotion

A lot of teachers want to move up in the profession, but some can be their own worst enemies when it comes to advancing their career goals. If you have aspirations of moving beyond the classroom to become either a lead teacher or administrator, make sure you’re not undermining yourself by:

Practicing poor communication skills

At one time, if a teacher wrote her opening letter relatively well and offered somewhat logical comments on report cards, she was considered to be communicating well. The rise of the Internet, social media and changing expectations for communication have changed all that.

Teachers hoping to climbing the career ladder need to avoid making key mistakesToday, you have to be well aware of your school’s expectations for reaching out to your students’ families. Along with that, make sure you’re speaking to your colleagues to see what your grade-level co-workers are doing. It’s important to align yourself with the school’s expectations, but not at the expense of good relationships with your colleagues.

When I meet with parents who want to discuss their child’s grades, one of the most common complaints is poor communication by the classroom teacher. Those complaints tend to add up when promotion time comes around.

Choosing a weak graduate program

After earning an undergraduate degree and securing a teaching position, many teachers begin to look at graduate programs. Earning your post-bachelor’s degree sends a strong signal about your desire to grow as a professional, but don’t make the mistake of jumping at the first graduate program that comes your way.

It’s important to balance out the reputation of the program, the success of its graduates and the balance of on-site (brick and mortar) versus online work. Online-only degree programs are gaining stature every day, but some administrators are still biased against programs that do not require on-campus attendance.

Punching a clock

Earning a promotion and moving up in the education profession will require you to work harder than ever before. Long before you move into your new position, your behavior starts sending a message about your work ethic. If you provide even the slightest appearance of just “punching a clock,” your prospects will suffer.

Everyone — colleagues, parents, school administration and yes, students — will pick up on the quality of your dedication, which is why your willingness to give extra time sends a message.

Don’t be surprised to learn that when you were considered for your promotion school administration used your attendance record as an indicator for your readiness.

Avoiding volunteer opportunities

From time to time, you’ll get an opportunity to lead a schoolwide initiative, volunteer effort or community-outreach program. Failing to take part — even in the smallest fashion — will sabotage your reputation and send a signal that you’re not invested in the school.

This has a cascading effect on your perceived fitness for a promotion. Always remember that small actions send loud messages about your attitude and professionalism.

Failing to master classroom practice

All of the ambition in the world won’t make up for being a weak teacher. If you have aspirations beyond the classroom, it’s essential to master your current assignment before looking anywhere else.

Having a reputation as a hardworking and dedicated teacher will be invaluable when you apply for new positions, and your last position will be used as the greatest judge for your future success. Don’t spend too much time “living” in your next position. Instead, make sure you’re mastering your current role.

Not putting children first

Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ruin your chances for a promotion faster than being unkind or uncaring toward children. Rarely will the most efficient, insightful and perceptive teacher move forward an inch in their profession if they don’t have a strong track record for placing the needs of their students, their learning, and their families first.

Making it a point to always be there for your students sends the strong message that your dedication to our profession goes far beyond your current classroom assignment.

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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.

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