New Teacher Checklist
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You got hired to teach full-time as a probationary teacher in the NYC Department of Education! Now what?
Congratulations on beginning your journey as an educator! Regardless of what people say, teaching can be one of the most rewarding yet thankless careers. Thanks to our Union and the advocacy of UFT Solidarity, teachers in NYC have many rights, are compensated well for their work, and have decent benefits.
In order for us to keep these benefits strong for the next generations of educators coming up after us, we must fight for the schools we and our students deserve and a union we all need. Join UFT Solidarity and join the UFT.
Not sure what the connection between UFT Solidarity and the UFT is? Read this page first.
Here are a few vocabulary terms you will need to understand:
- Probation — the period of time (In New York State, the probationary period is four years — and that includes the New York City Department of Education [DOE] — but your period may be shortened through acquiring Jarema Credit) in which a UFT member is growing and learning as a professional before they can apply for tenure.
- Probationary Period — Under New York State law, public school teachers must serve a probationary period of four years from the date of their appointment in order to be eligible for tenure. Upon completion of their probationary period, teachers are either granted or denied tenure, depending on the recommendation of the superintendent. If a teacher has worked four years and one day from the date of their appointment, and no action was taken to either grant or deny tenure, then the teacher has achieved “tenure by estoppel” (meaning that tenure was automatically granted).
- Tenure — Having tenure means you can’t be terminated without due process and you’re entitled to a hearing if the DOE takes disciplinary action pursuant to Education Law § 3020-a or § 3020-b.
- Due Process — Due process gives teachers the latitude to use their professional judgment in their classrooms, to advocate for their students, and to not fear retribution for speaking the truth or teaching controversial subjects such as evolution. As political winds shift in school districts, due process also wards off patronage or nepotism.
- Discontinuance of Probationary Service — When you are unable to complete your four years with end-of-year Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) ratings of “Highly Effective” (H) or “Effective” (E), your probationary period will generally be discontinued. Discontinued teachers can reapply for a position in a different District, but it is very hard to be accepted or approved for a new position.
We also strongly advise you to make yourself familiar with Chancellor’s Regulation C-205, which details information about tenure and what the DOE can do if you aren’t granted tenure (i.e., discontinuance of probationary service or denial of certification of completion of probation [aka “denial of tenure”]).
We also strongly advise you to read and review the following materials that the UFT has accumulated to discuss the nuts and bolts of tenure in NYC. It can be viewed here.
What follows is a checklist of things we at UFT Solidarity recommend for new teachers to do when they get hired in the NYC DOE. This checklist is NOT meant to be all-inclusive. While our end game in UFT Solidarity is to get as many of our members to tenured status and be able to collect their pension, we know nothing is certain or promised. Next year, we may revise and expand upon it. If you would like to support us in improving this guide, please email us at email@example.com.
- Make sure you join the UFT! We are strongest when we stand together. Your employer, the NYC Department of Education, does not have your best interests in mind. You will learn over time that the NYC DOE and often your supervisor will try to demean you, make you guilty when you don’t work harder, and make your hard job impossible. Being active in your Union means reading the UFT website, attending UFT Solidarity meetings, reading the UFT Solidarity website, and attending your Chapter’s UFT meetings. At this point, listen to the other teachers in the UFT and in UFT Solidarity.
- Be sure to carefully review and save the email you received from the DOE’s Division of Human Capital, which records all your current information concerning your New York City license/appointment and New York State certification. Most important, check that it is accurate. If not, be sure to follow the DOE’s instructions right away to correct any errors in the record.
- Make sure you get to know your UFT Chapter Leader, UFT Delegate, UFT District Rep, and UFT Borough Rep. Get their phone numbers and emails. Make sure you use a personal, NON-WORK/NON-DOE email for all UFT communications!
- When you are appointed under a new license, your probationary period restarts. Please review materials here for more information.
- Make sure you sign up for your health insurance and dental plan! Check out the link here.
- Need a form or application? The UFT website has a wealth of useful forms — UFT, DOE and even New York State forms and applications. Go to UFT Forms to access or print forms pertaining to leaves, salary, Workers’ Comp, special education and much more.
- Article 7 of the UFT Contract discusses your working conditions, access to supplies, work hours and other important details. Use this page as a handy tool to review. If your school isn’t following these guidelines, reach out to UFT Solidarity and email your Chapter Leader.
- Get in the habit of documenting your teaching. As a first-year teacher (and even as a second-year and a third-year teacher), you will be going through lots of growth in a short space of time. It will be exhausting and not fun at times. But reflection will help you a lot in terms of seeing what works for your age group, demographic, and subject area(s). At the bottom of your lesson plan (remember, the principal can only mandate that you follow a template if you are on a documented improvement plan! Otherwise use a simple outline that your mentor recommends), remember to reflect about how the lesson went. Did an activity work out? If so, why? Did your seating arrangement work? If you completed this lesson or activity over again, what happened differently? Feel free to share these findings with your mentor.
In the first few years, it can be really helpful to write down your experiences, positive or negative, with teaching particular lessons. This may be good to write about in your tenure portfolio.
- Purchase a large binder (three to five inches) and dividers. Each divider should be devoted to a section titled:
- Observation Reports
- Awards and Acknowledgments
- Regents and State Exam Data
- Classroom and Bulletin Boards
- Class Baseline and Summative Assessment Data
- Professional Development Workshops and Log
- Student Activities and Parental/Community Engagement
Get into the habit of collecting and making copies of documents and printing out PDFs/emails of materials that fall into these categories.
- Document your interactions with your principal and assistant principals, both the good, bad, and neutral encounters. Keep this in a notebook, planner, or digital document. This is especially important when you get observed. Write what the admin tells you, ask for modeling of what they are looking for, and make an earnest effort to implement it in your classroom.
- Ask your administrator to introduce you to the Borough Instructional Leads (BILs) your school works with via the Borough Support Office. The BILs can connect you to Professional Development opportunities and other teachers in your region. This also allows for great networking if you need to transfer schools. Go to the workshops, take notes, participate, and be professional. You are representing your school and if you are exceptional, the BILs may drop a nice note to your principal.
- Take photos of your classroom, students working (make sure you blot out faces and names if you use the photos for any reason.), and bulletin boards you’ve made.
- Make sure you are working with a mentor ONE-ON-ONE. Common Planning Time and Grade Team Meetings DO NOT count towards your mandated mentoring hours. If you suspect you aren’t being mentored, talk to your Chapter Leader.
One of our teacher contributors said this:
“I think teachers need to know that Year 1 is critical in preserving some works of their students because they will have to demonstrate growth over the years. In general, Year 1 is horrible, but if one can demonstrate progress by Year 2 or 3 of student work in comparison to the first year I think they will be on the right path.”
- Listen and observe:
- Are teachers getting tenure easily in your school?
- Are they being forced to jump through hoops?
- Are they being denied tenure or are their probationary periods being extended?
- Is turnover BAD at your school? (“Bad” meaning that over 25% of the adults leave each year.)
If so, you might want to transfer out. Tenure is all about how well you are liked by your principal and how hard they will vouch for you. If there is no love between you and your principal, tenure might not be in your future. Please go to Job Hunting Resources.