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Practical Tips to Protect Yourself
Review the tips below to protect yourself from unnecessary employment stresses:

Review Your File
If district policy allows it, from time to time it is a good idea to review your personnel file in the district's central office. It may be necessary to make an appointment to do so. Make a list of all items in your file and make copies of important documents. Leave one copy of the "inventory" list signed and dated by you (and your witness, if allowed by policy) in the personnel folder. Retain your file inventory list and copies for your private records.

Take Notes
Always take notes at or soon after the time of meetings with any supervisor during the year. Include witnesses' reports and date all materials. (Do not overlook brief visits or observations.)

Keep Copies and Notes
Keep copies of everything you give to your evaluator/principal as well as copies of everything given to you by your evaluator during the evaluation cycle.

Keep any notes concerning student or parent conferences in a file where you easily can find and retrieve them, yet in a location that is not accessible to others. Remember that significant privacy rights are extended to many types of student records.

Ask for copies of any parent or student complaint lodged against you, including the names, dates and specifics of the complaint.

Ask your administrators for copies of any records about you they may have in their files. (You may be refused or have difficulty getting these, but ask anyway. Ask for both positive and negative items.)

Respond to Evaluations After Study
As you receive formative evaluations, memos, professional development plans or summative evaluations, remember to ask for time to study them and to prepare a written response later if you need to. When you attach statements or comments on a separate sheet (the space provided on the form is usually small), write on the original, "See attached teacher comments." Always keep copies of what you attach. When you do sign the forms, include the date. If the evaluator has filled in an earlier date, ask that it be changed to reflect the correct current date. Remember, your signature on a professional improvement plan or evaluation indicates only that you have received and read the document, not that you agree with it. Don't risk making a delicate situation worse by refusing to sign.

Contact NWPE Prior to Job Performance Meetings
Contact NWPE for advice before attending any meeting that might deal with your job security. You may request permission to bring along a witness for any meeting that might deal with your job security, but understand there may be no legal requirement that you be permitted to do so. Phrase your request professionally. Explain that your witness will not participate in the meeting, but is there only to listen and take notes during the conference. If you are not allowed to have a witness, make notes during the meeting or immediately after and sign and date them.

Professional Demeanor
Always maintain a calm and professional demeanor. Try not to react defensively or in anger, no matter how justified you may feel in doing so. You will not communicate or advocate effectively on your own behalf if you are agitated. If necessary, request a moment to prepare yourself, or make an appointment to come back at a later time when you can better proceed with the meeting.

Technology Policies
In addition to following required school district rules and procedures regarding use of Internet and email, you can further minimize your risk of violating technology policies. Log off your computer when you're not using it and whenever you leave the room. Don't share your password and, if feasible, arrange to change it periodically. If you receive inappropriate communications or discover other inappropriate uses of district technology, report it to your supervisor or building administrator immediately. If something would be inappropriate to say or share in person, it is probably inappropriate to send via email or other medium. Monitor student use of the Internet or email closely. If students access inappropriate information, you may be held accountable.

Employers may monitor employee communications and, so long as you have been notified that it will occur, there is no requirement that your employer get your consent to do so. Electronic communications can be monitored, stored, retrieved, viewed or listened to by your administrators - even those messages you delete or never send. This includes voice mail, text messages, faxes and your access to Internet sites.

In conjunction with your district's technology policies, you must establish yourself as the professional adult in any situation involving students. Set the appropriate boundary lines, and make sure that neither you nor your students cross them. Do not become involved inappropriately with your students in chat rooms, locker rooms or classrooms. Know and stick to your district's staff/student relations policy.

Resignation Request
If you are asked by an administrator to resign, NEVER do so before you have contacted NWPE. Regardless of attempts to pressure or persuade you to resign immediately or by the end of the day, you cannot be required to do so if you have a contract for a specified term that is not at-will.

It is always better to defer submitting your decision until you have had adequate time to review your legal rights. It is legally impossible to be fired on the spot without being given the due process to which you are entitled, so don't let implications or suggestions to the contrary influence you into a hasty resignation before you have had the opportunity to consult with a legal representative.

Abuse Accusations
If you receive a notice from a school administrator, a person in law enforcement, an investigator or any other person that you are the subject of an investigation, call NWPE immediately for legal advice. Be polite and cooperative with the administrator or official who has contacted you, but inform that person that you will need to consult with your legal counsel before you arrange for an interview or give a statement. (This includes your principal or superintendent.) Obtain the person's name, title, and telephone number, and state that you or your attorney will be in contact with them as soon as possible. Generally, you cannot be forced to give a statement, so do not let anyone intimidate you or lull you into believing everything will go away if you will talk to them right now.

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