Should I stay or should I go? | Education Support
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Teacher resignation

Should I stay or should I go?

13th May 2020

School staff are feeling extremely raw just now. The turmoil of recent months has in recent days grown a new layer of uncertainty which is taking anxiety levels of the usually most optimistic and calm people to stratospheric levels. We are in our seventh week of trying to balance the chaos of the unknown and uncontrollable, moving between supporting our loved-ones with their immediate needs and attempting to support our students’ wellbeing and education from afar. We’ve struggled with an apparently infinite number of different online platforms, dealt with hysterical teacher-bashing headlines, been told we’re setting too much work, not enough work, too easy work and too challenging work.

We’ve had innumerable sleepless nights for the children we know are living in danger and poverty and the colleagues with underlying health conditions whom we know are so vulnerable and spent hours in online queues to try to get them fed. We know nothing will be the same again and in our more optimistic hours dared to hope that we may come out of this better and stronger and more compassionate but battled with the dread that comes with the knowledge that social inequalities are more entrenched than ever.

So the end of May, usually a key date in any school calendar and the source of much self-questioning and staffroom speculation has barely featured. The end of May has been the last date when staff can resign their substantive posts in order to take on new opportunities for September and there is no evidence to suggest that this year is any different.

There are still opportunities out there!

With so much mental and emotional noise, it’s not surprising to learn that many school staff have shelved any notions of moving on. The mere practicalities of the normally arduous process of applying for jobs may, understandably, be just too much to think about just now.

A recent Twitter poll of 100 teachers showed that 60% were less likely to move on that they were before the Covid-19 pandemic set in, with only 8% more likely to do so. These would appear to be the significant minority who have persistently subject to nonsensical scrutiny and mistrust through this process.

However, based on responses from 101 schools, jobs are still being advertised and staff will still be needed! 40% continue to advertise ‘as normal’ and only 16.8% are avoiding advertising for new staff.

In short, there are still opportunities out there!

Instinct is key

Of course, many will happily stay on board in their current contexts into September. These people will probably feel well-supported and keen to ‘fight the good fight’ during the challenges in the months to come alongside the colleagues and students to whom they are committed and feel excited about once again experiencing the bustle and craziness of a school day. Many will have offered and received acts of kindness that have gone way beyond anything they’ve experienced before.

There are others still whose colleagues and leaders may have stumbled or struggled (which of us hasn’t, to be fair!) but with whom they know instinctively that they want to stay loyal.

Instinct is key here, and there may be people reading who have had doubts, itchy feet and know deep down that it’s time to seek new pastures. To those people, there are still jobs out there, and there is still time. Here are some reasons why you may wish to seek out a new opportunity:

If you feel guilty about abandoning the students but, fundamentally, they are the only thing keeping you at a school. There are students who will need your expertise everywhere!

There are good people and good places out there

If you know that you were fundamentally unhappy at work before this crisis began – waiting for a culture and climate to change, unless you’ve already seen evidence of it doing so, can be pretty fruitless.

If you’ve been persistently made to feel you’re ‘not good enough’. This is a pernicious one. Excessive scrutiny, regular ‘tellings off’, having your shortcomings highlighted repeatedly can erode you confidence and ultimately make you quite ill. It can also make you feel that you aren’t up to the task of ‘selling yourself’ to a new context. Dig deep. Think back to happier and more successful times. Nobody deserves to feel that they are deficient and such judgements are always subjective and often skewed.

The one thing I can say with confidence is something that was said to me repeatedly when I was working myself into the ground and had completely lost my mojo a few years ago: there are good people and good places out there.

Now more than ever, examples of principled, humane and loving leadership abound. Staff who have shown such extraordinary acts of bravery, compassion and kindness, all based on the principle that their community is made up of human beings with vulnerabilities, foibles, flaws and ultimately with the capacity and drive to make a real difference.

There is one other option. I know more and more people who are deciding simply to leap. They know it’s time for new adventures but haven’t yet secured a new role. It is utterly terrifying, but you know what? Every single one has landed on their feet. We know now, more than ever, that life is short and life is precious and every one of us deserves happiness and fulfilment in our roles. If you know it’s time for something new, take a deep breath and be brave. If you have something unique and special to offer, children and schools will always need people like you. Sending courage and wings your way.

Dr Emma Kell is a teacher, researcher, speaker and author of How to Survive in Teaching 

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