When The Great Recession happened, educators experienced a contraction of available teaching positions. Educators were grateful for the work which remained and accomplished the same as if those let go were still present. The same amount of students showed up to be educated, the same amount of duties were preformed around the school – just by fewer teachers. In many places those jobs have not fully returned. Personally my job group, created out of ARA (American Recovery Act, February 2009), has remained flat in personnel, but has been absorbed into the mainstream culture of my district. However, we have not had a new hire since the creation of the positions either; and digital assets continue to grow.

Some educators see the potential for tremendous opportunity. In down-sized schools and district the chance for career compacting is high, if you are willing to pay the price.

What is Career Compacting?

Career compacting occurs when the optimal numbers of teachers is low, but the duties of a school or district remain high. Individuals commit to a higher density of tasks and responsibilities. It is not for everyone, but can pack years of experience into single school years. Career compacting can be the resume boost your are searching for, the way to sample different facets of the educational job market, or could be your personal path to burn out.

Pros/Cons of Career Compacting

Not every teacher wants the added responsibilities.

Education witnesses many teachers working beyond their capacity early in their careers. While some thrive on this, many drop out of the profession to seek other less strenuous employment. Early career teachers are not ideal candidates for career compacting. They may require the opposite to work closely with a mentor; career compacting is not the strategy to make Assistant Principal in your first three years. Career compacting is for the educator in the sweet spot of their career so that both the school and the educator benefit. An experience educator who knows what s/he is committing to, can take on extra duties, assignments, and tasks to accomplish the experience of more than one year in one school year.

You need to also decide if you are looking for a stipend or interested in being paid in experience. Spoiler Alert: one is more enticing to the school/district. Be up front about the time duration you want to try this new responsibility, otherwise you may be stuck with it for years. Also, let your supervisor know why you are interested in trying out something new. If you are interested in moving to another position your boss might be able to help you network with the appropriate people, but not before s/he gets a little extra work out of you.

This can be an opportunity for some.

Those who do want the added responsibilities need to demonstrate a track record of results, both prior to asking for extra work and while doing the extra work. Anyone asking to take on essential tasks needs to also demonstrate an understanding of the desired result of the Principal or district. The act of negotiating this extra work is a reputation builder, but if the work itself is mishandled your reputation may never recover. Educators interested in developing in themselves a new facet of school or district are many, but those willing to do the extra well are rare.

Take a voluntary position if it: demonstrates how you can work hard and work well, and demonstrates the need to continue the position. In a related post, Surprise, Someone Already Thinks You are the Tech Coach, I share a strategy to turn volunteering around your school into to a full-time Technology Coaching position. This type of newer position is a great example of something you may need to show a school or district the need. Once you demonstrate the need, be up-front about the work involved and ask for the position. Do not volunteer indefinitely. Schools or districts are not trying to take advantage of you, but they may not understand the work involved. Educate them and then ask for it to be your new position.

How to Start

Schools and Districts often offer chances to develop sincerely interested teachers in different facets of education.

As an educator you want to first carefully consider if you can do the work of 1.5-2 school years in one year. There is no shame in waiting until you can; it would be worse to try and disappoint everyone, including yourself.

Be specific when talking to your supervisor about what you want to try and for how long.

Chronicle your efforts and successes/areas for improvement to share with your supervisor at prearranged times throughout the school year. This reminds the supervisor you are doing more this year and helps ease them into the need for what you are doing aside from your assigned tasks. At the end of the year, if your efforts are positive you should ask for what you want next year as a job. If it does not happen with your current employer, your resume has certainly benefitted.

Career Compacting

I hope your current employer sees the value in your offer, or that you can find related work. However, not all supervisors are future-oriented. In that case consider my related post, Leaving at the End of This Year, I ask “Why not develop who is on staff to their fullest, even if that might mean they eventually go somewhere based on what we have developed – because sometimes they go somewhere because of what we refuse to develop in them as well. At least we could have people engaged, excited, and currently working on being the best educator they can be right then, regardless of if they leave at the end of this year” At some point, you have to take the resume you have and move to the next phase of your career.