Thinking of Leaving Teaching?
Thinking of Leaving Teaching - Tips

Are you asking, “What Can I Do Instead?” Here’s my advice

When I started thinking of leaving teaching, I asked myself, “What can I do instead?” 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.”

“What Can I Do instead?”

It made me realise that not only were there teachers who, like me, were asking, “What can I 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. But 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?

Your Wellbeing

If you’re thinking of leaving teaching, then this will be a very difficult time! Heavy workload and exhaustion may have started you wondering how on earth you’re going to teach until retirement.

You may be feeling very negative and uncertain about your future, thinking, “All I can do is teach!” Read more about this in my section on the Change Curve.

A Leaving Teaching Change Curve, adapted from the five stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

It may be useful to talk to someone. You can find some at this link People Who Can Help You – With Your Well-being.

For example, Eileen, of Your Money Sorted, improves teacher wellbeing by empowering female teachers to become happier, healthier and wealthier.

Purposeful Educators talk about the loss of self. When you lose this sense, you lose direction, your sense of worth and connection to what brings you joy. It may be worth considering getting coaching and mentoring from people who will be able to build upon and improve your self-esteem, self-belief and self-confidence.

‘Teachers are experiencing a loss of self, causing physical and mental illness, and prompting some to leave the profession.’

Jane Berryman, who carried out research into why teachers are leaving the profession

“Should I quit teaching?” flowcharts

If you are thinking of leaving teaching then these flowcharts may help you decide the next step to take. The first is a link to a “Should I Quit?” flowchart on the Lifehack website. Basically, if your job is making you unhappy then maybe you need to find a new one.

My “Thinking of Leaving Teaching” flowchart will help get you focussed and decide if you want to move school, go on supply, move to another area in education or leave education completely. Of course, another option is to do nothing and stay where you are!

You can download this flowchart as PDF which, by way of active links, offers an alternative way of navigating my website. Alternatively, you can use the links on the Contents page.

Thinking of Leaving Teaching Flowchart to help answer the question, "What can I do instead?" It shows alternatives to teaching as well as options such as moving school and supply teaching.
Thinking of Leaving Teaching Flowchart (PDF file, 73.4KB)

Essentially, there are two main options; stay teaching in primary or secondary schools, or leave teaching for good.

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If you still want to teach in schools

1) Move School

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. Looking at my section on Moving School. 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.

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.

3) Supply Teaching

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 a toxic school 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.

A year after leaving teaching, I did some supply work in both primary schools and secondary schools for a couple of days per week to boost my income. Some schools were good and some were bad. But I was in control… if I didn’t want to go back, I didn’t have to.

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If you just want ideas about what else you can do

1) Read what others have to say about leaving teaching

Look at some of the True Stories that I have collated from my Thinking of Leaving Teaching Facebook page for inspiration. These can be found here on my website at What Other Teachers Did Instead.

Also, check Reddit, by searching variations on “Leaving Teaching”.

Ex-Teachers of Reddit, what profession did you end up in after leaving teaching? How did you get into your new line of work? Are you happy with your new profession? from r/jobs

I would recommend joining the Facebook group, Leaving Teaching UK. In the first few weeks after I joined, I saw some interesting and supportive conversations; comments about transferable skills and recruitment agencies and questions asking what careers people do now, about teaching in universities and teaching English online.

Logo for Leaving Teaching UK Facebook group.

Check out the TES Community and search for tags such as “leaving teaching” or “leave teaching“.

2) Look at my Events page

Logo for Events page

Here, I post events from organisations who help other teachers. Events I have posted include those from Purposeful Educators and The Teacher Empowerment Project.

Purposeful Educators Events

You can follow them both on Twitter; The Teacher Empowerment Project @TeacherEmpower and Purposeful Educators @Purposeful_Ed

You might be interested in The Teacher Empowerment Events if you are looking for:

  • ways to diversify your income and reduce your hours
  • some life changing CPD
  • a new role
  • a promotion
  • a role in a new sector of education
  • a role out of mainstream education altogether

Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, their London event could not go ahead.

The Teacher Empowerment Project advert

I imagine there will probably be more virtual events in the future as result of Covid-19.

Recommended – I attended the Teacher Empowerment Project event in Manchester, October 2019 where I met both them and Purposeful Educators.

3) Look at the Business Opportunities section of my website

Take a look at the People Who Can Help You With Business Opportunities section. This has links to various businesses, many set up by ex-teachers, such as The Reading Doctor, Little Music Stars, Alan Reeves and Home Childcare Childminding. These are businesses who value the transferable skills that teachers have.

Images of logos in People who can help you with Business Opportunities

What to do if you definitely want to leave teaching

1) Look at your Transferable Skills and update your CV 

As a teacher, you may not have updated your CV for a while and so this is an area you will need to spend some time on. You will have many transferable skills that are useful in other jobs.

“When you are teaching it is difficult to think about what else you could do and if you have the skills. You’ll be surprised by the skills you actually have.”

A comment from my Thinking of Leaving Teaching Facebook page

Start by looking at your transferable skills at Job Search – Transferable Skills. This useful because I have analysed person specifications for many jobs I have looked at over the last six years and identified the most desired skills. I have then made this relevant to teachers by looking at these skills in your role as a teacher.

I have put together a lot of very useful information on this website about improving your CV, including both links to my own anonymised CV and links to other CV examples and templates, at Job Search – Writing Your CV.

2) Consider Home Tutoring/Online Tutoring

One of the benefits of home tutoring is the one-to-one learning. Many home tutors have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by switching to online tutoring. Take a look at What Else Can You Do? – Online Tutoring and also read about Deborah Salsbury, who created a highly effective tuition/school intervention called The Reading Doctor which Ofsted have endorsed in 2 recent reports. She recently franchised the business so it’s an opportunity for qualified teachers to set up their own business without the pressure of thinking up systems and resources.

3) Further Education and Apprenticeships

Think about teaching in Further Education and browse FE Jobs for jobs in further education. Look at becoming a trainer or assessor for apprenticeships. In the My Story section on this website, I talk about what I’ve done in the six years since I left teaching. This has been in Further Education, in particular apprenticeships, and I now have a job in Higher Education. There may be some information there that’s useful to some people who are thinking of following those career pathways. You can find out more at the Institute for Apprenticeships website.

4) 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 my Other Jobs You Can Do section of this website. Also, look at some of the True Stories that I have collated from ‘Thinking of Leaving Teaching’ for inspiration. These can be found here on my website at What Other Teachers Did Instead.

Thinking of Leaving Teaching - Other Jobs

Once you have narrowed down a few jobs that you like the sound of, write down a list of the things that you like about your job as a teacher and those that you dislike about teaching. This is useful because it will help you focus what it is you’re looking for in a new job. For example, you may write down that you like ‘helping people’. There are plenty of other jobs where you can get satisfaction from helping people. For me, marking was always the worst thing about teaching. I am now in a job where there is some teaching/training but there is no marking.

5) Think about what you’re passionate about

Think about what you’re passionate about. What other hobbies and interests do you have? Cath commented on my Thinking of Leaving Teaching Facebook page:

My turning point was looking at my passions and hobbies outside of teaching. This not only led to new job ideas but also helped my self worth.

6) Start your Job Search

I have put together a lot of useful resources on this website at Job Search – Job Hunting. Apart from the job sites that many are familiar with, such as Indeed, I mention other job sites, such as jobs.ac.uk (“Great jobs for bright people”) which is a job board for jobs in Universities and FE Colleges. I had several interviews through this site and got my current job through that site.

"What can I do instead?" Image of a hand writing the words 'Job Search' on a transparent screen.

You may need to plan answers to competency-based questions for application forms and interviews, and I have put together some very useful resources for these areas in Job Search – Completing Application Forms and Job Search – Interview Questions.

7) Training and upskilling

You may have transferable skills, but you will still probably need to retrain and get a qualification or two for your new career. For example, if you are wanting to do online tutoring then you may need to complete a TEFL course.

A Microsoft qualification would be useful, especially as recruitment agencies often ask for experience of Word, Excel and PowerPoint in “admin skills”. In less than 12 hours of learning, you could gain the Office 365 Teacher Academy badge which would show evidence of your knowledge of Office 365. In this course, you learn how to use basic features of Office 365 including Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Sway, Microsoft Forms, Office Online and OneDrive.

Office 365 Teacher Academy badge
Office 365 Teacher Academy

You could invest in continuing professional development (CPD) and expand your skills by taking courses offered by online learning platforms such as OpenLearn, FutureLearn, Khan Academy, edX, Udemy and Coursera.

Logo for The Skills Toolkit by the National Careers Service

In April 2020, the Department for Education launched the online platform “The Skills Toolkit“, offering people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects. Some of these are from organisations named above, such as OpenLearn and FutureLearn.

8) Self-Employment

Maybe consider going self-employed. It is a brave move, but if you’re passionate about doing something then why not consider it? When you work for yourself, you have control over your time schedule and workload; you’re your own boss! If you choose to go self-employed having found people to pay you to do the stuff you’re good at and that you love to do, then that could be your dream job.

"What can I do instead?" A Venn diagram showing Your Dream Job, which is at the intersection of Stuff you're good at, Stuff you love to do, and Stuff someone will pay you to do.
Could going self-employed get you your dream job?

Some ex-teachers have started their own businesses. You can read about some who have started their own businesses, such as The Reading Doctor and Little Music Stars, and have have franchise opportunities at People Who Can Help You – With Business Opportunities.

9) Work out your expenditure

Many people have direct debits set up but have no idea of the breakdown, in other words the actual amount of money that disappears from their account(s) every month on essentials such as their mortgage/rent, bills and essentials such as food and clothing. Once you know this, then you will know how much money you need to earn every month to pay these bills.

You can work this out in a spreadsheet that I have created in Money Worries – “I can’t afford a pay cut!” This also has a link which allows you to look up various gross annual salaries and it will calculate the corresponding net monthly salaries. Knowing both the net monthly salary of a potential job and your expenditure will tell you whether or not you can afford a pay cut.

Screenshot of Income-Expenditure Spreadsheet

10) Start saving up!

If you really are thinking of leaving teaching for good then start saving up first. The rule of thumb is to always have enough money to cover three months’ worth of outgoings. If your monthly outgoings (mortgage/rent, food, bills, etc.) come to £1200 then you should aim for £3,600 of emergency savings. If you were to lose your job (or resign because things were just so bad!) then that would help buy you three months to find a new one. As well as helping you through any lean periods, this money can also help to pay for any training that you might need to do for a new job.

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