Cathy StephensQ: What parts of the contract, if any, are negotiable? Do I just have to take what’s offered?

A: This varies across the country depending on whether the state/district to which you are applying operates with teacher unions. Before any interview, do your research and be aware of how that state/district operates. Contracts which are negotiated by collective bargaining by teacher unions are nonnegotiable. Salary is generally based on education and years of experience, and all other parts of the contract are negotiated for the district with the union. Where teacher unions do not exist, it is up to individual districts to decide the terms for employment. Because they have to remain competitive with unionized districts, their teachers are traditionally well paid. Regardless, I would steer clear of asking about this in an interview. If a contract is negotiable, it should be clear in the hiring process.

Q: I’m looking for my second teaching job and getting my references together, but I don’t have a good relationship with my principal. How should I handle this?

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