But today we’re going to discuss an often overlooked but super-important list of tasks you need to complete BEFORE leaving the classroom for the last time. Even if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to leave teaching for another career, you’re going to want to listen because these tasks are important for you to think about, too.
In fact, completion of these tasks can be the difference between a nightmare of problems that keep you trapped in a gridlock of back and forth conversations with your former district and a smooth transition into your dream career.
10 tasks to complete before leaving teaching
1| Get a copy of everything in your personnel file at the Central Office
It’s very important for you to have copies of everything in your personnel file as well as any original documents that were kept on file. This would include but not necessarily be limited to…
- Teacher License(s)
- Financial records
All of this documentation is important for your records because if a potential future employer wants authentication for work history, performance evaluations, or earnings. These documents can be used as leverage for negotiating a higher salary or a potential bonus.
So let’s look at each of these individually and why you need copies of these documents.
Be sure to request copies of all past contracts and a copy of your current contract to indicate that you have indeed been employed for the amount of time you’re indicating on your resume. You also want these contracts to be used as a bargaining chip for your potential salary.
Also make sure you obtain your original teacher license(s) on file at the district level. These are your documents and if the district needs to make a copy to keep for their files, so be it…but the originals are all yours.
If you already have a copy of all your previous evaluations, go ahead and get an additional copy from your personnel file anyway. Sometimes there are additional pieces of information that you may have misplaced or that were added after you signed off on your final evaluations. This guarantees there are no gaps.
These evaluations are going to be important to use to your advantage when trying to obtain a new job. In fact, performance evaluations are very highly regarded and might just be the difference between getting the job and missing out on an amazing opportunity.
You want to have any official documentation for your current salary as well as any bonuses received as well as any information about why these bonuses and raises were given.
This may not seem important until you consider that if you assumed additional positions as a coach or tutor, this shows great initiative and willingness to take on different roles within a company. This tidbit of information then becomes a key bargaining tool for future interviews.
And finally, make sure you know when to expect your final paycheck. This is going to be critical for your classroom exit strategy timeline as well as your family budget.
2| Request a copy of insurance information
This is important for tax purposes, but it is also important for you to know. Any time you leave a position with benefits and take another position with benefits there is some lag time.
So let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you currently have great insurance benefits, but you plan to turn in your letter of resignation next Monday. It’s vitally important that you know when your insurance benefits end because you may have to get on a spouse’s plan or obtain private insurance.
Even if you already have a new job lined up to start within two weeks of leaving teaching, many company insurances don’t pick up new employees until 90 days after being hired. And trust me when I tell you that if something is going to go wrong with your body, it will happen during that small window of time between insurances.
Then the new insurance company can deny certain claims as “pre-existing conditions” because the health situation happened BEFORE you were picked up by them. So it’s really important for you to know when your current insurance expires so you can make plans accordingly.
3| Obtain a copy of your attendance record
Any company you pursue wants to hire individuals with good attendance. The last thing a company needs is more employees who are constantly late or calling in sick.
If you can show potential employers that you have a fantastic track record for attendance and/or that you had additional time accrued you didn’t even take, this will immediately put you in the rankings as an ideal candidate…especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the field you are pursuing.
Remember, you need to focus on your areas of strength during your interview. So if you were rarely late and you missed work only when it was inevitable, you need to highlight your work ethic and integrity to potential employers.
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4| Call the retirement office and get copies of everything
Gather all of the retirement information you need including…
- How many years you have vested
- How old you will be when you can start drawing your retirement
- How much you will draw
- The difference in what you will draw if you leave this year vs. 5-10 years
This information is going to be vitally important because different states have different requirements. In some states, once you leave teaching, you lose ALL of your pension. In other states, you simply need to have 5 years vested to start drawing the minimum amount.
While I don’t claim to be a retirement expert, I have put together a retirement resource page with links to every state in the US as well as the different Education Associations for each respective state. This is not an exhaustive list, but I figured it would be a great starting point for you.
Also make sure that all of your information is correct with the retirement office and that you have filled out all of the appropriate forms. Then double check and triple check your address, phone number, and social security number.
One wrong number in any of these areas can create a HUGE hassle for you later…so just be diligent now to prevent your future self from a TON of stress.
Be sure to get the name and direct line of the person you have been communicating with and ask if he or she will send you email confirmation of your conversation. This just gives you a paper trail you can pull if needed at a later date.
5| Get a copy of your earned professional development points
Depending on the state or country in which you obtained your license, you have to earn a specific number of professional development points to keep the license active.
In the state of Tennessee, you’re required to have 60 professional development points acquired during the last five years in order to renew your teaching license.
Of course, if you plan to leave teaching, you might think this is irrelevant. But here’s why it’s important.
Let’s say you choose to leave this year, but then four years from now you choose to return. You will have to renew your teaching license and the points you earned while still in the classroom will be part of that total!! But if you’re anything like me, you have a hard time remembering what you did last week much less four years prior.
And even if you have no intention of stepping foot back into the classroom after leaving teaching, you will still have a copy of the professional development you completed. You worked really hard to obtain your teaching license and it still gives you credibility whether you choose teaching or a different field altogether.
6| Make sure you switch all personal accounts associated with your school email
Another thing that’s easy to forget in the rush of leaving teaching is to switch over all of the accounts you signed up for using your school email. Once you leave the school, that email address becomes invalid.
Let me tell you a quick story…
When we first moved into our home, I was a stay at home mom with a toddler and another baby on the way. We were so excited to have our own home, but with only one income, we couldn’t afford the Internet. So, I didn’t have email for several years.
Once we finally could afford to get the Internet, I ended up with an email address through my provider as opposed to a Gmail account. At the time, I didn’t know this could create a problem down the road.
After about 14 years with the same Internet provider, another Internet company decided to bless us with Fiber Internet that allowed me and my kids to be online at the same time without taking 4.5 minutes to download an image.
Thankfully, I realized that when I switched I would lose that particular email address. So I spent a LOT of time switching email addresses on all of the accounts associated with that email address…or so I thought.
Unfortunately, I forgot a rather important one.
In case you don’t know, I design websites for online entrepreneurs and I recently created one for my church.
When I purchased the url or domain name, I didn’t realize that I had used my old email address.
So when it came time to renew my church’s domain name, I couldn’t remember my password. But the good thing about most online businesses is that nifty little “Forgot password?” right underneath that account info.
I clicked it and waited for the password…and I waited. And I waited.
That’s when it hit me that I would never receive that all important password because I no longer had the email address it was being sent to. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I decided I would just email the company and ask if they would allow me to add the info onto one of the other accounts I had.
It took 2 months to receive a response, but I got it renewed. Unfortunately, the issue still isn’t resolved and I am going to have to go through the same headache when it needs to be renewed again.
So I told you all that really long and silly story to drive home this one point…Be sure to switch ALL of your accounts.
7| Transfer school accounts out of your name
While in task number six we talked about any personal accounts you had, this task is related to all of the school accounts you have. These are all of the subscriptions and accounts the school or district pays for that you have access to as a teacher.
If leaving teaching mid year for another job is your plan and you already know the name of your replacement, you can update the account with the new teacher’s information to make the transition as seamless as possible.
8| Download files to your personal computer, hard drive, or cloud storage
One thing you may never have considered is how many of your files are actually stored on your school computer. If you’re anything like me, I always downloaded resources and important files directly onto my computer.
I know this wasn’t always the smartest decision, but it was one I made when decision fatigue set in and I didn’t have time to think about backing up all of my files. At least until my hard drive stopped working.
Since that time, I routinely make backups of important information. So before leaving teaching, save all of the files currently being stored on your school computer to either your personal computer, Google Drive, or DropBox.
Then make sure you print or download any grades or attendance information from your school’s portal to ensure there are no problems during the transition from you to your replacement. This will provide you with any relevant information you might need to share once you’re gone.
9| Remove any personal information & shortcuts from your school computer
I tend to save personal information on my computer. (And if I were to guess, I figure you probably do the same thing.) Now, I’m not talking about things like social security numbers or anything THAT personal.
I’m specifically referring to things like your passwords and shortcuts or bookmarks of your favorite sites.
I have a couple of main passwords that I use for everything but depending on the requirements of the site…I also have variations of those passwords. You know what I’m talking about. There are sites that require a minimum number of letters with some combination of upper case, lower case, numbers, and symbols.
Then there are those that only want letters and numbers without any symbols. Then there are those that want only lowercase with no numbers and a minimum of one symbol.
So, I end up with 15 variations of my “main” password and I just can’t remember them all. So that’s when I invoke the “Forgot Password?” link because my “main” password isn’t working and I’m asking myself why on earth I wouldn’t just use the normal password.
When I click the reset password link and try to enter my “main” password, I realize that this is one of those variation passwords that I will never be able to remember. So I create another one and then I save it with Google so I don’t have to try to recall this new one, too.
My suggestion to remedy this saved password predicament is to visit your favorite websites or at least those you visit fairly often and see if your password auto populates. If so, you need to remove the password before leaving teaching so the password isn’t accessible to anyone else who has access to this computer.
Trust me when I tell you it will take some time now, but it will give you peace of mind later.
10| Collect all of your personal belongings from your classroom
I saved the most obvious for last, but make sure you collect all of your personal belongings from the classroom before your last day. You can either slowly take a few things home each day or you can remove everything in your final hours.
I would suggest making a list of those things you know you want to take with you now so you don’t forget things in the moment. It may seem super-obvious to you now, but when it comes time to walk away, there may be more emotions tied to your exit than you realize.
Here’s a list of some of the most common things found in classrooms that actually belong to the teacher.
- Books – from your classroom library & your professional stash
- Supplies – notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, binders, post-its, markers, copy paper, pencil sharpener, laminator, laminating sheets, laser printer, etc
- Storage + organizational containers – bookshelves, carts, containers, baskets, bins, chairs, stools, furniture pieces, teacher toolbox
- Posters + charts – anything on the walls you purchased or created including bulletin board pieces
- Personal belongings – cutlery, dishes, mugs, cups, microwave, mini fridge, sweaters or jackets, classroom decor, curtains, etc
This is actually a list I created based on what I brought home from my classroom when I left several years ago. Almost everything in my classroom was purchased with my money and I wanted to make sure I kept anything that was mine.
Obviously, I left many things that I had purchased because I knew they would get used by the next teacher who acquired my classroom. But if I felt like the items would be helpful to me after leaving teaching, I took it with me.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of the things you need to remember to do before leaving teaching, I hope it serves as a springboard from which you can create your own list.
If there’s something I missed that you think would be helpful, please shoot me a DM on IG @classroom_exit_strategies because I would love to add your thoughts to this list!
You can do it, my friend.