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
“All I can do is teach!”
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. 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?
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:
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:
The most common concern is the financial implications of leaving teaching. The reality is you most probably won’t find a job that pays as much to begin with. This knowledge leads to the most common retort, “I can’t afford to take a pay cut!” In response to that, my question is, “Have you actually written down your outgoings? Many people haven’t.
The reality is that there are many things that people spend their money on that are non-essential. For example, I know people who buy a £3 coffee every morning before work. That’s £15 per week, £60 per month, and over £650 per year… just on a morning coffee! Their gym subscription, that they rarely make use of because they complain of being too busy, is £75 per month which is £900 per year. They could join a non-contract gym, such as PureGym, and pay £20 a month, a saving of £660. There are plenty of ways that people can save money.
“So much happier! It’s amazing how you can reduce spending if you need to: we eat out far less, don’t buy expensive branded clothing anymore, drive older cars and only buy what you need rather than want.”A comment from the Thinking of Leaving Teaching Facebook page
Bizarrely, I manage to save more money on my mortgage now than I did when I earned a Head of Department salary on UPS3 and I even make overpayments on my mortgage. Analysis of my spending habits back then shows just how much money I wasted. I was a classic victim of Parkinson’s Law:
“No matter how much money people earn, they tend to spend the entire amount and a little bit more besides. No matter how much they make, there never seems to be enough.”How Parkinson’s Law relates to money
Thankfully, my understanding of the value of money has improved since then, and I have learnt the difference between what I need and what I want. I learned this by putting together an “Income v Expenditure” budget spreadsheet. I entered my mortgage, bills and all other outgoings on a spreadsheet and this told me how much I needed to earn to cover them. You can use this Income & Expenditure spreadsheet to help you:
Despite initial concerns about money, I am so much happier now and have no regrets about leaving teaching.
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. If you decide to hand in your notice then here’s a Teacher’s Resignation Letter Template.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I have been told that they are incredibly supportive and helpful.
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.
Maybe consider going self-employed.
9) The Teacher Empowerment Event, 5th October 2019
Would you like more options about what else you could do in your career? Are you free Saturday 5th October 2019? If so, then read this interesting article about The Teacher Empowerment Event which is being held at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.
10) Look at Social Media
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. You could also check out 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
11) Start saving up!
If you really are thinking of leaving teaching for good then start saving up first. 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.