Would you settle for second best?

While Spring time for me and you might mean putting away the winter clothes, getting out the tennis rackets, and going on some Easter egg hunts, it means something completely different for Girl Ninja. Spring means hunting season… job hunting season that is.

As you all know we decided to move to Seattle. I’ve already made the move, but she wont be coming up until the end of June so she can finish teaching her first full year of Kindergarten in San Diego. We couldn’t have gotten out of SD at a better time as the San Diego School District’s budget is jacked up beyond repair. Teachers are getting laid off left and right. Fortunately, things in Washington aren’t as bad. She’s spent the last few weeks applying to various public and private school in WA.

The school district Girl Ninja would like to teach in is accepting applications for next year. She thinks this is her best chance to get in with the public school system since a few of her friends teach in the district. The pay is decent ($41K), the benefits are awesome, and the kids shouldn’t be quite as EVIL as her current students. It’s unclear how many positions are available, nor is it clear how many people will be applying for said positions. We hope she gets offered a job, but we aren’t counting on it (most school districts hire from within before they’ll look at out of state applicants).

If she isn’t able to get a contract in a public school district, she’d be happy to go private. Private schools are awesome because class size is typically small and the kids’ parents are typically more involved. The downside, however, is the pay is typically about $9,000 less than a comparable public school position and the benefits are mediocre.

If she can’t get a public school or private school contract, the last option would be to substitute teach all year. This is obviously the least desirable outcome as subbing means she never knows when or where she’ll be working. Oh and did I mention the most she could make in a school year subbing is $20,000? And that’s assuming she was able to substitute every single day, which is not likely. We’ll take what we can get, but we are really hoping she doesn’t have to go back to subbing.

We assume she will hear back from the private school she applied to long before there is any movement on her public school application. If she were to be offered the private school gig, we’re guessing she’d make about $32,000/year. That’s $12,000 more than she would make as a substitute, but $9,000 less than she would make as a public school teacher. And thus the dilemma, do you settle for second best or shoot for the stars?

Girl Ninja has made it clear she wants a teaching contract, preferably at a public school, but she’d be happy to go private over having to substitute. If selected for the private school position, she’d probably be notified in May. If she is selected for a public school position, however, it could easily be July or August before she got an offer (she didn’t get her current position until September, one week after school had started). The way I see it there are really only three choices for her to make if she is offered the private school gig.

1) Accept the offer and rescind her public school application.

2) Decline the offer and hope for a public school contract, knowing she might end up subbing instead.

3) Accept the offer, and then quit if she gets offered a public school contract.

The first two options are black and white. The third option, however, is definitely a gray area. Selfishly it’s the best option for us. She’d be guaranteed $32,000/year, but still have the potential to take a $41,000 position. It’s great for us, but bad for the private school. They could potentially be left scrambling to find a replacement. Quite the moral dilemma. And right now, we have no idea what to do. Why do I feel like we’ve been in this position before, oh wait, because we have!

Have you ever applied for and been offered one job while waiting on another? If you accept an offer are you obligated to follow through and start work? Where do you draw the line in this gray area?

of course all of this is assuming she is offered the private school position, which she might not be. it’s good to plan ahead though right?


32 thoughts on “Would you settle for second best?”

  1. Take option 3. Ultimately you need to be selfish when it comes future employment. It’s business, you have to be cold, hard and calculating. Remember, businesses do not have any moral dilemmas.

  2. Option #3 easily. You have been in Germany so long you must have forgotten this is America. Do you think the filthy rich parents of the kids in the private school would turn down a ~25% raise for the same work? I wouldn’t worry too much about those parents or kids; they’ll be just fine without GN.

    • While I agree that it wouldn’t make sense to turn down a 25% raise, I disagree that all kids who attend private school are rich. I went to a private high school on a full academic scholarship, and I know the same school also offered need based scholarships. Not everyone is “filthy rich”. But true, Girl Ninja’s decision likely won’t cause the school to have a major OMG breakdown.

    • whoah buddy! not all kids in private schools are filthy rich. And besides…rich kids need to be made to feel special just as much as poor kids. Many of them have things, but they don’t have the same family support that you or I had. Just sayin…

  3. I don’t think its a fair comparison. Working in the public school requires paying teachers’ union dues even if you’re not in the teachers union. The dues should therefore be subtracted from any amount listed as a gross salary before comparing with the private school.

    • My mom is a teacher and while I haven’t asked her for specific numbers, I can almost guarantee union dues don’t take away the benefit of higher pay in public schools. Not even counting the benefits.

  4. Depends. If it was a small industry where burning bridges could haunt you for years…then #3 would be a bad idea, although it’s obviously the best choice for you. But I’m guessing there are enough schools around that this wouldn’t be a problem.

  5. I don’t know how it is in Seattle and San Diego, but in the midwest there is a fine for breaking contract. The closer it is to the beginning of the school year, the higher it is. Plus, there may be costs for the advertising to fill the position that gets left open (I’m not sure if this is in addition to or is part of the fine, this is my first time looking for a position). So… it wouldn’t drastically drop earnings, but it is another thing to consider for option #3.

  6. Or #4: take the private offer and work there for a year or two; then apply for a public position later on.

    More important, however, is the fact that you haven’t shown a picture of a mussel above; you’ve shown a clam.

      • I think you just answered your question. Who cares about burning bridges if GN will only need those bridges for two more years? Take option 3. =)

  7. Option 3 – You have to look out for yourselves. There is really no morality involved. The job market is brutal, you are the only one looking out for you.

  8. While option #3 makes the most sense if you are looking for a long term teaching career, if GN is not expecting to teach for very long I wouldn’t worry too much about getting into the public system. Over a 30 year career the difference in pay would be huge, over a two year career, not so much. If you get an offer, go with it.
    (Speaking as an 11 year veteran of a public system!)

  9. The fact that you ask means you know it is wrong to accept a contract and cancel at the last minute. It is not morally ambiguous or a gray area. Check with your mother or your pastor. You come across as a decent, upright man, and it will always niggle you to game the system or behave in a way contrary to your values.

  10. Based on the short term duration of the “career” (2 years), I would have to advocate for choice 3. It won’t really matter if she burns bridges towards future employment since she won’t be seeking future employment for the foreseeable future. If she did get an offer from a private school, I would immediately leverage that in negotiation with the public system to get them to make an offer or just piss off. Since it’s the government we’re talking about, they’ll likely do nothing, but at least you can say you tried to negotiate. Then take the private school job on principle and note that the public school system lost out on another great teacher due to bureaucracy.

    PS Time to start using spellcheck.

  11. I’ve been in a similar position, when I was applying for jobs, I got three offers around the same time but what I had done was promise myself that I would give the first person who gave me a chance at least a year. It kinda sucks not knowing if the other options were better and I felt bad having to say no but it was tough to even get one job and I was just grateful someone gave me a chance so I didn’t want to throw it back in their faces by quitting.

    Since with all the options she is getting to do what she wants and she is going to be a stay at home mom, I would go with number 1.

  12. Option 3 for sure.

    I had a crazy time interviewing for company A in the latter part of ’10, after 4 months of having to be sketchy about why I’m taking PTO (b/c I was interviewing!), company B came out of nowhere and offered me a gig that I couldn’t refuse. I hardly even interviewed for the second company, too! 15 months later I’m as happy with the decision as could be. It was hard to tell the other company that I rescind my acceptance, but stuff like that happens all the time. Life goes on and you’ve got to look out for your family’s best interest. Here in Texas, teachers are getting cut left and right and there seems to be hardly any sympathy!

  13. As a former boss told me after I told him I had to quit (after only a month, because I had a better offer for a job in the field I wanted to focus on):

    “Nobody else will be looking out for your best interests but you. You gotta do what you gotta do.”

    So go with option 3.

    • This. Provided there aren’t any crazy fines/fees/whatever for breaking the contract, GN’s gotta do what’s best for her.

  14. OMG! That is the exact but really more similar dilemma I’m having to deal with! I’ve just recently graduated and unsure of whether I should take whatever job in administration/office I can get since I’m more experienced here, imo or should I take a FT/PT job related to the events industry…. decisions, decisions! T_T

  15. Wth all the recent talk about seattle and germany, I forgot there for a while you guys actually live(d) in San Diego. I live in the caribbean but just got back from a business trip to San Diego last week. How cool is that, I just came from a place where I potentially could have met you … yes, that did sound a little pathetic but I seriously love your blog… and dont worry, I’m not a serial killer, you and girl ninja would have both been safe if we’d happened to anonymously meet at the zoo or something.

  16. I don’t know what the right decision is. My mom teaches at a private school. I went there and loved going there. By no means are all the kids in a private school filthy rich. Me being a prime example of a poor kid in a private/parochial school. True, her salary is not what it would be at a public school. Then again, if it were a public school, she would have been forced to retire by now. Lots of budget cuts in our area. She LOVES her job, LOVES the students and she gets tons of support (volunteer and financial) from the parents for special projects, field trips, guest speakers, etc. She has a lot of freedom for creativity in the classroom because of the small school setting that I just don’t think she would have in a public school. Maybe I’m completely wrong on that. I’m just giving a shout out to the joys of private schools to mix it up a bit!

  17. Of course you can pick option #3, however I would use the first offer as a way to talk to the public school. In other words, negotiate from strength. BTW, she should go directly to the school she wants to work in versus going through the district. Ultimately it is the principals choice, so go see him or her.

  18. This kind of applies to any situation of this sort, not just GN. If I got offered job 1, then got offered a better paying job 2, I would go back to employer number 1 and give them an opportunity to counter and at least match the job 2 offer (including all the benefits). If they don’t match or better the offer, I don’t think there should be any qualms about the 2nd job. We live in a capitalist society where there is little if any room for empathy. Good luck on the decision!

  19. I think she needs to make a commitment. Since being a teacher is what she wants to do, I don’t know if she can just as easily be selfish in this industry (versus financial services, for example). I would definitely do it in San Diego, but since you want to raise your family in Seattle, it might not be the smartest thing to do. Either she takes the first offer that comes her way or hold out for the public school contract.

    In this case, second best ain’t too shabby.

  20. I think once she accepts the private school offer, just take the public one for the following year and finish out the year at the private school first. Good luck. We’re moving across the country this summer and there’s a lot of stuff to take care of (translate-it’s really stressful) 🙂

  21. Knowing how many of my friends in Seattle with teaching certificates and experience have been laid off or never found a teaching job in the first place, I’d just be super duper thankful for whatever teaching job she is offered.

    Sorry to be all Debbie Downer about it 🙂

  22. Another aspect is that you are assuming that she will be giving up work in 2 years time to be a stay at home mum, BUT as many people will tell you the best laid plans of mice and men… when it comes to pregnancy don’t assume anything.

    And why are private school teachers paid less than public? That just sounds really wierd.

  23. This is a really tough one to be sure. Definitely take the private job if offered, but it seems somewhat wrong to bail if a better offer comes along (kinda like the middle stick figure with actual muscles). But at the same time, I know there is little loyalty from employers now so it really ends up being each man or girl ninja for himself. I couldn’t blame her one bit for jumping at the more lucrative opportunity.

  24. At least she has some options. In CA there aren’t many to choose from (I know, I’m finishing up my teaching credential with no job in sight!) If it were me, I would probably wait to give the private school my answer until the latest possible moment, with the hopes the public school offered me a contract. This way I could weigh all my options.

    She obviously wouldn’t want to go back to subbing – I know this first hand too, I sub and make under $30K a year. Crummy for all that education. ;(

Comments are closed.