Balancing the demands of full-time teaching with family obligations, medical conditions, or raising children is a struggle many teachers face. For those who can swing it, teacher job sharing can reduce a teacher's work hours, leading to less stress and a better work-life balance.
Unlike the more common co-teaching model, teachers who job share split the responsibilities of one teaching job between two people, which means each person works only part-time. Job sharing is common in the United Kingdom—particularly in elementary schools—but it's much rarer in the United States. However, as districts seek creative options to combat the teacher shortage, job sharing may become increasingly popular.
Think job sharing might work for you? Here are some tips to make your experience a success:
1. Commit to the Partnership
Taylor is an elementary school teacher in the UK who spent several years job sharing. She admits the arrangement can be a difficult thing to get right, but feels when it works, it can be very effective.
Further reading: 6 Tips to Help You Thrive As a Substitute Teacher
"There has to be compromise from both sides," Taylor said. "Your main goal has to be that whatever you do, you do it for the benefit of the children. Some job shares that don't work are when each teacher is only out for themselves, and they don't work as a partnership."
Job sharing may not be a full-time job, but it requires each teacher to be fully committed to the class, even when they're not teaching.
2. Factor in Communication Time
Teachers know that lesson planning and marking assignments can take up a whole lot of time outside of school hours, and this is also true in teacher job sharing situations. While you may only work—and get paid—for a certain amount of time each week, you can expect that planning and communicating with your job share teacher will add additional hours.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to plan together," Taylor said of her job sharing arrangement, "but we had lengthy phone calls and emails each week updating each other on the work we'd covered and any issues with the children."
Most job share teachers communicate regularly, even texting each other questions or updates throughout the day. This can make it hard to feel like you've left work—even on your days off— so teachers need to agree on a plan for how, how often, and when they will communicate and make themselves available.
3. Choose a Similar Partner
They say opposites attract, but when it comes to job sharing, you'll want to be careful about partnering up with a teacher who has a very different style from your own. Considering the amount of collaboration and communication required between teachers, having a partner whose style and expectations are similar to yours can make your job share much smoother. If you're a detail-oriented person with a type A personality, partnering with a teacher who is lax with lesson plans and updates may lead to a frustrating and unproductive partnership. If you don't know the teacher you're partnering with, make sure to set specific expectations before you start, so neither teacher feels they are unfairly burdened with responsibilities.
4. Create Shared a Classroom Management Plan
Having two teachers is not an issue for most students, but having two teachers with different rules, expectations, classroom management, and discipline policies can cause significant problems. Teachers who are job sharing must create classroom rules collaboratively and enforce them consistently in order to be successful. Plan for regular communication on issues to ensure uniformity. Inconsistencies can lead to backlash from students or parents.
5. Split the Curriculum Fairly
All teachers have subjects they love to teach and others they could do without. If you're lucky, you can find a job share partner whose strengths and preferences complement your own. For instance, a teacher who dreads teaching math would do well with a partner who loves it. This makes for an easy, logical division of the curriculum. Grading assignments and assessments for preferred subjects can also feel less burdensome, though teachers will need to agree upon grading policies and plans for assigning final grades.
6. Brainstorm Solutions Together
Dealing with student behavior or other classroom issues can leave many teachers feeling frustrated and alone, but teachers who share a classroom share a vested interest in problem-solving issues and resolving challenging situations. Teaching the same students in the same classroom at different times offers teachers the opportunity to test different strategies and find a method that works. This can also be helpful when dealing with parents or other difficult situations, as one teacher may discover an approach or communication style that works better.
Further reading: How Teachers Can Deal with Workplace Competition
7. Cover for Each Other
Imagine writing sub plans that don't include paragraphs of explanation about certain students or class dynamics. Many job share contracts require planned sub days to be covered by the job share teacher, rather than a substitute. Not only does this save the school the trouble of finding a sub, it saves teachers from having to write long sub plans addressing classroom idiosyncrasies. It can also reduce behavior issues that may occur when the regular teacher is off for the day.
Teacher job sharing requires time, communication, and commitment, but successful partnerships can offer teachers freedom, convenience, and a more balanced life.