For the first article in this series click here: Hiring a local to Homeschool.
1) Have an employment agreement.
2) Give it 10 weeks before you throw in the towel!
3) Be Supportive!
4) Classroom Discipline.
5) Parent Teacher Meeting and Employee Evaluations.
6) You can’t always pick a winner.
7) What if you have to fire someone?
1) Have an employment agreement. Have your teacher sign this agreement. It should include the time period for which you have hired her/him (so do one for the two-month period, and another one if you extend her time). Include how much you will pay her and your expectations (class time, preparation time, grading papers, etc.). Let her know how much time she will need to invest. We found it helpful to include a week of paid vacation at the end of each term as an incentive to stick with the job. At Christmas break, there was a stipulation stating that she would receive half a week vacation pay for finishing the first term and the remaining half upon starting the second term. The end of the school vacation pay was a full week’s pay for finishing out the school year. These were incentives for when the going got tough, or for when others offered her a job. The employment agreement should also list some grounds for dismissal.
2) Give it 10 weeks before you throw in the towel! After the two-month trial period is over and you have hired her full-time, don’t expect everything to always be rosy. You will be adjusting to her and she to you. When you get frustrated and ready to fire her (unless she has done something morally wrong or something you really can’t accept) hang in there! I had to learn a lot about supervising someone. I had never done that before. I also had to learn to allow for her ideas and style of doing things. I am a very organized and structured person. I have a way I like to do things. In hiring her, I needed to allow her certain freedoms in teaching, organizing, planning. I had to compromise on certain things. She had a system for doing things that was different than mine. I had to learn to accept that. Also, being new to that country, I had to get used to her cultural ways (and she to ours). Our kids had to adjust to those things as well. We had to learn to communicate when we got on each other’s nerves. I wanted her to be my friend, but I struggled with how to be her “boss” and her friend. I was often jealous of her relationship with others of my co-workers and even my husband, since their friendships could always be just that. They didn’t have to supervise her. We did become close friends during her last year with us. She worked for us for 4 years, which was beyond what we had originally planned. Things went so smoothly with her around that I was freed to pursue other opportunities.
3) Be Supportive! It is so easy for a mom to have such built-in compassion and trust in her child, that we would tend to side with our child over this stranger. Your teacher needs your support. In front of the children always support her. Praise her. Show respect to her. I desired to do this, but struggled at first. If she wasn’t handling something the way I would, and my kids complained, I would “fix” it. Just as some children tend to play one parent against another, your children will learn whatever your weak spots are. In the beginning, I did not support her decisions enough and her authority in the classroom began to weaken. She also did not enjoy the teaching as much during that time. I wasn’t always around during school mornings (especially when I was in language school), so it was not beneficial for me to come home and side with my children against the teacher. Stand by her decisions. If adjustments need to be made, talk about the way to do it differently for the next time.
4) Classroom Discipline—Set up an appropriate method that your teacher can use in class. Most people say we have well-behaved kids, but after the first term was over, our teacher was very frustrated with their “know-it-all,” prideful, arrogant attitudes. She was tired of being challenged by them. She was tired of them acting up in class and not really knowing a good way to rein them in. After the first term we developed a behavior chart. There were some basic classroom rules (based on problems she had with them during the first term). During the course of a day, if a child broke one of the rules, he would get a mark on the conduct chart. One mark was equal to a written apology to the teacher. Two marks equaled the apology, plus loss of a privilege that day. Three marks equaled both of those and other punishment after school. No marks in a week equaled a big reward. One mark in a week equaled a small reward. As our children got older, rewards and consequences changed. For example, three marks in a day would earn no computer privileges for the week. Also, during her last year, I was in the home a lot and was training a new teacher in our home for a co-worker’s two kids. Between the 5 boys, there would be a problem from time-to-time that would disrupt the class. Sometimes the problem arose from getting a conduct mark. If a child was being disruptive, he got expelled from the classroom for one class period, and he had to make up the missed work as homework. Both the other kids’ mother and myself had planned that we would charge our kids a reasonable rate to have to teach them any missed work (that they needed help with from the expelled class). We explained to our kids that we were paying their teacher to teach them and that if they were so dissatisfied that they were uncooperative, then they would have to pay us to teach them. Sounds crazy, but no one had to be expelled from a class more than one time. Only 2 of the 5 ever were expelled from class.
5) Parent Teacher Meeting and Employee Evaluations. Plan to have one of these on a regular basis (like once a month) for your teacher to update you on how each child is doing and any struggles she is having in teaching them. Have a separate meeting planned every other month or once a quarter—an employee evaluation. Praise her for what you have noticed that you really like. Share with her anything that you see that she needs to improve upon. Ask her if there is anything that you can do to make her job better. If you keep her more than one school year, consider a small raise. Remember, you have invested a lot of time in training her, and it could be very easy to lose her to another job, especially once other families see how invaluable she has become.
6) You can’t always pick a winner. During our last year with this teacher, two new families joined our team and wanted me to help them get teachers for their kids. One family, with these suggestions, interviewed, hired, and trained their own teacher. She stayed with them the entire first year, and I think returned for a second year. On the other hand, I was training a young lady from a neighboring country to teach the other co-worker’s kids. They came to our house for school and I trained and supervised her (then turned her over to the supervision of our kids’ teacher). She was a very kind and sweet lady, quiet, too, just like the two co-worker’s boys. She had a good heart, but she was very lazy and really lacked motivation for teaching. I was getting very close to needing to fire her. I prayed about it a lot! She was a new believer, and I really enjoyed the opportunities I had to disciple her. I struggled immensely with whether or not it was the right thing to keep her employed. Most of the time I found myself spending more time teaching her how to do her job, than just doing the job myself! I praise God every time I think about not having to experience the process of firing someone. We had given her a warning during an evaluation that we wanted to see marked improvement by the end of the term (two weeks) if she wanted to be hired for the second term. [Consequently, we had kept her on a preliminary contract during this period.] We told her specific things we would be looking for. During that time, her parents, in her homeland, needed her to go back to be with them. Our relationship is still good and she continues to stay in touch with us. I am thankful for her friendship, and praise God that He helped me through that situation. All that to say, the first teacher you hire may not be the one that stays with you for four years! But, realistically, how many of us had one teacher for four grades anyway?
7) What if you have to fire someone? If you need advice on firing an employee, the only advice I have to offer is PRAY HARD! The decision is definitely not an easy one. Unless you need to fire someone for moral reasons, give her an opportunity to improve, by telling her things she needs to work on before her next evaluation. You may need to schedule more frequent evaluations.
Assistants: You may not need someone to teach all of the subjects. You may want someone to work with you in schooling. In those cases, your hiring process may differ from above. You may need someone you can team-teach with, sharing the responsibilities. Come up with a list of your needs and what teacher qualifications you have. Many of the same things that are outlined above could be helpful to keep in mind even when hiring an assistant.