Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Ask DR.JOB's Q.and A.: Choose Best Teaching Offer


(Q.1) AFTER SEARCHING SIX MONTHS ON AND OFF LINE for a new teaching job, I'm suddenly getting last minute offers for this new year after the semester started. I know it's because others backed out, but I'm glad I'm called in their places. The only problem is that after no responses all summer, I suddenly have four and I want to choose the right one. The best and highest paid is as full time kindergarten teacher with all benefits for three months until the teacher in that class returns from maternity leave, and since graduating from college I've only been able to find work as an assistant teacher. The second is another permanent job as teaching assistant, the third is part-time as an assistant, and the fourth is as permanent substitute teacher, and they promise to keep me busy with higher hourly salaries than the other jobs. How do I make the right choice?

(A.) YOU NEVER WILL BE SURE you made the right choice, but there are a few things to consider. Educators we spoke with said you should lean toward the full-time kindergarten teacher job even if it's temporary because it will be most important on your resume for future jobs after holding only assistant positions. Also, if the administration likes your work, you have a good chance of being called for full-time teacher assignments as more women take maternity leaves, and eventually an actual full-time teacher job should arise. They also may be able to offer substitute-teaching days in the interim. Be sure to suggest that.  

Does Teacher Keep Buying Supplies?

(Q.2) I just began my 10th year as a teacher and, as always, I have a classroom filled with kids who can't afford to buy really necessary supplies and my school district doesn't have budget for such things as crayons, water color paints, colored drawing and craft papers, paste, and so many other things as important as books (of which we also don't have enough.) Our kids learned to share while in their cribs, but I wonder what I can do to help them through this new school year.

(A) THE GOOD NEWS IS that there IS help for devoted teachers like you who are reaching into their own pockets to meet their students' needs and spending hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets each year. Kids In Need Foundation, which donated $42 million in product to US teachers last year, serves 2.4 million students, reports Executive Director Dave Smith and this organization provides free school supplies to kids who need them most from 29 resource centers where teachers "shop" for free supplies like those you mention. The organization has a teacher grant program that funds experimental learning projects nationwide too, and a backpack supply program that brings backpacks with supplies to areas hit by natural disasters. See: (http://www.kinf.org) 
 
There's Help for Cutting College Costs

(Q.3) OUR KID'S COLLEGE EDUCATION IS costing a fortune-much more than we estimated. Some of those hidden costs are books and residence amenities. We don't want to be forced to take a loan, since we save for this and both of us work. But how can we offset some of this?

(A.) HOW ABOUT LOOKING AT YOUR INCOME TAX and making sure you're getting all the tax relief that's coming to you? The IRS says the American Opportunity Tax Credit can total $2,500 per eligible student. It's available for the first four years of post secondary education. Forty percent of the credit is refundable so you may be able to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund even if you don't owe any taxes. These costs include tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment. That law holds till the end of Dec. 2017. Or you may choose to take the deduction of the Lifetime Learning Credit that may let you claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses on your federal tax return. You only get to take one a year. And of course, there's student loan interest that may be deducted. Check with your tax attorney to see which, if any, apply to your family-and take it.

Sorry, You're Not the Boss

(Q.4) I FINALLY FOUND A GREAT JOB in my field that pays a decent wage and has benefits. I also like the management. But I am not happy that the first three days this first week I've been scheduled to attend meetings with colleagues and supervisors to discuss procedures. I really need the time to get my office in order, set up programs on my computer and study my clients' records. How do I tell my boss I have to do this, so I won't have to stay until 8 p.m. every night to finish my personal work?

(A.) YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS, YOU ARE the employee. You are not being paid to do what you want to do when you want to do it. If you aren't willing to stay late to get your house in order, there are many other people who are, and they will happily take that job when you leave. Now, behave!
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