We’ve passed the half-way point of the academic year and are now closer to the end than the beginning. Amidst all the focus on children’s progress, many teachers are in what you could call the "consideration phase" — considering whether they would like to stay in their current school or look for new challenges and opportunities in new settings.

The motivations for considering a position at a new school falls into one of a few categories. Which one fits you?

Career Progression

Many teachers have not lost the original spark that brought them into education in the first place. They’re proud of the impact they’re making and after a few years of teaching they now want to share with other teachers what’s made them successful. They’re looking to take on more responsibility at Assistant or Deputy Headteacher level but those spots at their schools are taken. What’s the best strategy to take in this case?

Leadership positions are naturally fewer than class teaching positions and therefore more competitive. It’s a problem ambitious people face in every industry, not just in teaching. Also, getting into these positions for the first time is often much easier in an environment where you’ve already proven yourself and have ongoing relationships to build upon, as opposed to starting in a totally new setting.

Ambitious teachers are advised to be open about their ambitions with their headteachers and discuss their options with them. If the headteacher sees your ambitions as valid, you’re already in a good place. It might take some patience, but if there’s a plan you can agree on for you to move up at the school you already know, then this is probably the safest bet with the highest probability of success for you in the new role too.

If it’s unlikely a role will become available to you within a timeframe that’s reasonable to you, it’s worth exploring possibilities with the headteacher about schools they already work with. These might be schools in the same cluster, federation or trust. If you’ve proven yourself so far as a teacher, you may be able to coordinate some time to help at other schools. It will help you earn credibility in those schools and position yourself as a candidate for leadership, developing working relationships and opening up options that may become available in a shorter time frame.

Personal Goals

Some teachers have given a lot to the education system and after a few years, want to explore other opportunities in different sectors. You don’t have to vow never to teach again, but it’s perfectly natural to explore other ambitions. One common goal is to go back to the other side of the studying desk and pursue further academic qualifications, while another could be attempting a new career in a completely new industry.

For those that rejoin academia, supply teaching has proven to be a very popular and effective way to manage the need to earn a living around study schedules. Zen Educate’s competitive rates and flexible work arrangements mean that teachers can work through our platform on a part-time basis to complement their study obligations.

Those considering a completely new career in a new industry should consider the sequencing of their steps carefully. Often teachers work according to school schedules that don’t align well with the commercial world. If you were to teach until July and then look for a job, you would soon find out the summer is a terrible time to seek out new jobs in most industries. On top of that, waiting until September to start a job search that will usually take at least 3 months is a luxury not everyone can afford. One option to consider is trying to find a summer internship in a commercial role, without quitting your teaching job at all. This would give you the exposure you want over the summer and also give you a much better idea about what it’ll be like “out there” before completely jumping off the education train.

Childcare

Teachers are often also parents with young children and the urge to spend more time with them at home, especially in their early years, can drive many teachers to seek other employment options. If you are one of these parents, your first port of call should be your own Senior Leadership Team (SLT). Wanting to invest time in raising children is something most senior staff members will be experienced with, so they would usually be open to exploring different solutions with you. This could include reducing workload, working part-time or changing positions within the school. Schools don’t want to lose reliable, experienced teachers like yourself. The possibility of a job-share to enable part-time schedules is much easier if you already have a shared history with the class as their full-time teacher in previous years.

Supply teaching is also a popular option, although it’s important to realise how different this is from teaching at the same school every day. You’ll need to develop a new set of skills, asserting yourself with a new class, adapting to different policies for each new school you visit and even having different commute times every day. On the other hand, it provides for wonderful variety from one day to the next and many supply teachers discover there’s a much wider range of school environments than they had previously even dreamed of.

Burnout

Unfortunately, in recent years, even teachers very early in their careers complain about burning out. Reduced budgets and increased emphasis on test scores provide for a lot of pressure and stress on class teachers in some schools, and if you’re three years into your career and wondering whether it’s normal to be giving up all your evenings and weekends to plan lessons and marking, then you are not alone.

Considering resignation is one way out of this, but don’t rush to resign before you’ve researched other options. First of all, look around you. You’ll always find other teachers who are struggling too, but can you spot the teachers who look like they have everything together and are managing the stress well? Once you’ve identified them, watch what they do and don’t be shy about asking them how they do it.

Secondly, consider who is on the SLT and how long they’ve been there. If they haven’t changed in ten years and nothing likely changes soon, then your situation might not change either. However, if they’re relatively new and have plans that include improving the teachers’ well-being, it may be worth sticking it out and not throwing in the towel.

If you can’t find examples of teachers who are not stressed, or the SLT is new and things have only become worse since they joined, then considering a new position may be valid. Even then, don’t mistake disillusionment with your role in the school, with disillusionment with teaching as a whole. Your school may not be the right one for you but another school might. With final resignation dates still being months away, Zen Educate has already seen some teachers register early so that they can interview for new roles well in advance. Recruitment for September is definitely in full flux already. You don’t have to resign before you start looking for your next position.


Do any of these categories fit you? Do you know of anyone this would be relevant to? Tell us what you think or contact Zen Educate for advice for your specific situation.