You “Always” Get a Paycheck

This is first in an off/on series of articles about what they do not tell you about being a coach/educator. This is personal account, and may not reflect every coach’s experiences. This is also on the assumption that there is no rule breaking or legal issues for the coach/teacher.

The past three weeks have been a ride of emotions, & a soul search. The culture shock of going from a teacher/coach, walking anywhere from five to ten miles on average, interacting with nearly 200 different people almost every day, to essentially an online proctor, sitting more often than ever had in life, & during the hours of 8 AM – 6 PM, only having pets for company. With the Gov. Abbot (TX) implementing the “Not a Stay At Home Order, but Stay At Home” Order starting April 2-30, & schools out until at least May 4, the end seems like forever out. 35 days where I where I have not or will not do what I love as a coach. This week has brought an extreme roller coaster of emotions, ranging between discontent & disappointment at best. However, after a very heated “discussion”, to say the least, on Wednesday my wife reminded me that despite the challenges & feelings I am having about my situation, there is something that I have as a teacher/coach that they do not always tell you when getting the job.

You “Always” Get a Paycheck

Now, that’s a broad statement, & it does not really capture the gravity of it. The only work force I have only known is education. My parents & younger brother are all teachers, & my parents are former coaches. The only private sector jobs I have had was wait staff, which I have not done in a decade, & seasonal work as a raffle ticket seller for the Texas Rangers. Both of those jobs are not exactly known as life long careers, for most. I will be the first to tell you I do not understand how the private sector works, how shady it seems, or why there is minimal to zero protection for the working class during tough times like the current one we are going through, but that is a different discussion, but it helps set up these statements, which may illustrate a clearer picture of what I am trying to say:

You “Always” Have A Job

Our jobs as educators are for the most part, recession proof. We may not be the oldest profession in the world, be we are one that lasts through every tough time. My wife is a 1099 contract worker, her job is technically always in danger, & can be cut at any time for any whim. That is incredibly scary to me!

Our jobs as educators are protected by contracts. It is not much, but we do have rights. In Texas, one of the benefits of majority of our contracts are dual contracts, for better or worse. The great side of it is that you have protection on either side of that contract. If you are a good to great teacher, your principal can still fight for you to have a position if you need to leave coaching, but stay at the current school. If you are a coach who is an integral part of the program, your head coach can go to bat for you if you are struggling in the school house. Neither way is foolproof, but it is more protection than those who can be let go on the whim of a superior.

Another benefit to those contracts is that even if you were to be let go, there is a cutoff date This is legally “10 days before the end of instruction”, but most districts let a teacher know they are not renewed when contracts are being sent out, which is normally a four-six week period before school ends. I know many who were told they were being furloughed or laid off without warning, & had to clean out immediately. That is terrifying!

Lastly, there is one upside to a nationwide teacher shortage: there is always someplace to go. While my parents have transferred jobs (many times in fact), work was never hard to come by. It may not be in a place you want to be at, but having trouble finding a decent paying job is not hard. Someone is always looking. I do not think there has ever been a Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) Convention in late July where there has not been a job board waiting for programs/schools who need coaches.

You “Always” Have Someone Backing You

Even if you are on a probationary contract, you can fight for your rights as an employee of the school district. One advice I always want to give is to join your state’s advocacy groups (or if you are in a state that allows a union, join it). In Texas, union is a bad term, but advocacy groups such as the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) can fight battles for you as a teacher that you may be unable to fight for yourself. For annual/monthly dues, they offer legal assistance, state level legislative advocacy, & resources for teachers who are a part of the group. If you have legitimate grievances against the your superior, the school or the district, they will help you fight for your rights as an employee. I had to see this first hand when my father had to fight through a district reassignment where they reassigned him to an area he was not certified to teach. Especially in Texas, a right to work state, this is more than other careers could ever ask for.

You “Always” Get Paid

I always hate having to argue this, but sometimes, the general public has a point. We are in danger of a school shut down the rest of the year, & while I know I am tied to a computer to further my lesson plans & be available from 8 A.M. – 4 P.M. to help students, there are some teachers in districts doing far less. My district will be shut down for 35 days minimum, & a high possibility that we are shut down until the end of the year, for a total of 54 days, & then there summer starts, where we will continue getting paid because it is money the school district still owes us for our 10 (potentially 8) months of work. I will get paid through August, without cuts or danger of my employer going under, because the contract I sign every year guarantees that. I know millions who wish they had the same deal I have, even if I make a fraction of what they do. With “contract season” coming up, I pray that school districts find a way to keep all the employees who want to say, & be able to hire another year’s worth of coaches that want to be in our profession. No other occupation has such a wide range of work being done, or lack thereof, & still continues to pay employees the exact same wage.

In conclusion, the world around us is changing. Every generation has their moment(s) where “normal” would never come back. Black Monday 1929, Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy & Martin Luther King, & September 11, 2001 are just some examples of moments that rocked us a nation to its core & forced us to look inward & change. While now this may not look like one of those times, I can say that “normal” will not come back. I cannot tell you what the new “normal” will look like, but one of the underlying things that no one tells you about our career in coaching/education, & it is something to remain positive in this time of uncertainty.

Until that contract runs up:

You “Always” Get a Paycheck

Ryan Landrum

Asst. Coach Midlothian High School (TX)

Next article in two weeks.