Ex-teachers UK
Thinking of Leaving Teaching - Tips

What Else Can You Do? – “All I Can Do Is Teach!”

Throughout my career as a teacher, I heard many grumbles from other teachers, and these included:

  • frustration with workload and poor work/life balance
  • demotivation caused by poor management and bullying in the schools
  • anger about Government meddling and the direction the education system was going

More worryingly was the general despair from some and I spoke to several of these in my last few weeks as a teacher. I will never forget one who congratulated me on my career change and expressed how much she envied me. She proceeded to tell me how much she hated her job. I asked why she couldn’t leave and her response was, “I’ve done this for so long, this is all I can do! I can’t do anything else.”

It made me realise that not only were there teachers who, like me, wanted to leave teaching but didn’t know what they could do instead, but there were also those who were suffering from such low self-confidence that they were unable to imagine themselves doing anything apart from teaching.

If you are thinking of leaving teaching but don’t know where to look first then try my “Thinking of Leaving Teaching” flowchart which may help you decide the next step to take:

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Click on the “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” flowchart image above to load the interactive flowchart in a new window. Blue shapes are either links, or contain links, some are internal and some external. If you get an Adobe Captivate message on your device asking, “Please goto your settings and disable popup blocker” then just disable the popup blocker:

My Eleven Tips if you’re thinking of leaving teaching

1) Don’t give up on teaching yet!

If it is poor leadership that you are concerned about then there may be another school with a good leadership team that is perfect for you. Make use of social media, not just Facebook but LinkedIn too. Keep in contact with ex-colleagues and build up a picture of which schools are the ones to avoid. It’s not all about league tables. Schools to avoid are those with high staff turnovers which always indicate problems. However, if you are finding you are moving from school to school to school then you need to take on board the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

2) Go Part-Time

I didn’t consider teaching part-time as an option when I was thinking of leaving teaching, but I know some teachers who work part-time 2, 3 or 4 days a week and it seems to work for them. However, I am also aware of those who work Monday to Thursday and have Friday off… to catch up with marking! Read more about this from Anne, who posted about teaching part-time to the Thinking of Leaving Teaching Facebook page.

3) Supply Teaching

If you have had enough of full-time teaching, try supply teaching. I have experienced supply work in both primary schools and secondary schools for a couple of days per week. Some have been good and some have been bad. But I was in control… if I didn’t want to go back, I didn’t have to. Supply teaching gives you the opportunity to see a lot of different schools. Many people find that their enthusiasm for teaching is reignited once they discover other schools with good leadership teams. A friend, who left to become a supply teacher, told me, “I handed my notice in on the first day back in September. Haven’t looked back since. Not all schools are the same.” She has recently found a school she likes and told me, “I’m very happy with my role at the moment and have no plans to move”.

Supply teaching also puts you in control by giving you the opportunity to apply for non-teaching jobs without having to give a terms notice, which is often a reason why some teachers stay in a teaching job they hate.

4) Further Education and Apprenticeships

Think about teaching in Further Education or in apprenticeships as a trainer or assessor. Browse FECareers.co.uk for jobs in further education.

5) Research other jobs

After years of stress you may have low self-esteem and be thinking, “What else can I do? All I can do is teach!” Take a look at “101 Alternative Jobs for Teachers” compiled by Trudy Graham. You can download the ebook at https://teachersthriving.com/101-alternative-careers-for-teachers/ Also look at job sites such as jobs.ac.uk (“Great jobs for bright people”) and Indeed. You may need to brush up your CV and plan answers to competency-based questions in application forms.

6) Look at Transferable Skills to other jobs 

You have many transferable skills that are useful in other jobs. Take a look at the Did Teach website. I have spoken with one of the co-founders, Katie, who is passionate about supporting teachers to transition into other areas of work. It’s FREE to join their database and they advertise job roles for companies who are specifically seeking the skillset of teachers. The company email address is info@didteach.com. I have been told that they are incredibly supportive and helpful.

7) Training

You may have transferable skills, but you will still probably need to retrain and get a qualification or two for your new career. Invest in continuing professional development (CPD) and expand your skills by taking courses offered by online learning platforms such as FutureLearn, Khan Academy, edX, Udemy and Coursera.

8) Self-Employment

Maybe consider going self-employed.

9) Further reading

Check out the TES Community and search for tags such as “leaving teaching” or “leave teaching“. Look at some of the True Stories from ‘Thinking of Leaving Teaching’ for inspiration.

10) Further help

If you need more help seeking an alternative career, check out sites such as Live Well After Teaching which supports teachers and support staff who have left teaching and are seeking an alternative career, wish to go freelance or start their own business. Its 6-month Mastermind program combines individual and group coaching delivered through workshops and online webinars. If you would like further details, please contact Steve Waters at steve@teachwellalliance.com or phone 07504 635 431 and leave a message to receive a return call.

11) Start saving up!

If you really are thinking of leaving teaching for good then start saving up first. A common concern is, “I can’t find a job that pays as much.” The reality is you most probably won’t find a job that pays as much to begin with. You need to write down exactly how much you need to pay mortgage/rent and all bills. I earn far, far less than I earned as a teacher, but I am so much happier and have no regrets about leaving teaching. By saving up, this money can help to pay for any training that you might need to do for a new job, and help you through any lean periods.

Think twice before handing in your notice without another job to go to. Unemployment is not pleasant… I speak from experience.Why stay in a job that causes you so much unhappiness and grief? None of us know how long we have, so why spend that time suffering so much in a job you hate? Don’t be afraid of asking your family for support. I was lucky… I have a very supportive family who have helped me through some difficult times.