A personal journey out of the classroom (10): When you need to call the coastguard

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Some advice for those who have left school, are leaving,

or just thinking about it.

If you’ve read my previous 8 blog posts, you’ll notice, I hope, that I was able to progress through the education maze to find happiness in work- still in education incidentally- by falling over and getting up and looking around occasionally. None of it was planned – it all just occurred along the way.

However, reflecting on the process, I cannot stress ENOUGH the importance of lifting your head above the parapet and scanning the horizon for opportunities, inside or outside education, Do this even if you never intend leaving.

Schools can be islands- and once you are in your classroom you’re lucky to get a grunt from a colleague on some days. If you are in a difficult school, or a school in measures, how do you ‘see’ great, inspirational practice? If you are all so exhausted that you are dragging through the term, what opportunities can YOU take to see the wood for the trees?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Develop networks of teachers, colleagues and friends both inside and outside education, to support you in your career. Attend events. Create personal learning networks on social media. Look for opportunities to get out there and meet other people- Teach Meets are great for inspiration and are often outside school hours. Twitter CPD is great, 24 hours a day and free. Get on mailing lists, google groups and other online support mechanisms. Join LinkedIn and check out there groups too.
  • Consider taking on a new challenge within your school- volunteer to shadow a middle leader or jointly present training sessions with others. It will give you confidence in any situation, including interview situations. It’s also great on your CV. Make sure you genuinely like the area/ theme.
  • Attend any and every opportunity to network- get into the habit of saying yes.
  • Improve yourself- attend CPD, even the stuff that’s not your area. It’s amazing what happens. Consider further training- ask your SLT about it, say what impact it will have (very important for leaders to know). If you can’t attend any, look at your school’s CPD calendar. Could you attend TeachMeets instead? Could you do online training? Can you join a subject association? Their conferences are often fantastic- voila, instant network. Would you want to take up Masters level study- or even a Doctorate?
  • It’s not all about the training sessions, people. Professional development takes place right under our noses. Investigate the Lesson Study approach http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesson_study ask if you can join a small working group, or create one in an area you’d like to look at. Do some small scale action research. Try partnership teaching with colleagues. Approach your teaching union to ask for advice.
  • As you gain in confidence, could you take on a management role? Could you apply for Middle Leadership, become a Lead Practitioner, coach and mentor NQTs and ITE students?
  • If things are getting seriously overwhelming, could you manage to go part time? Consider the financial costs versus your time. I often worked a 5th day anyway- it just wasn’t at the weekend.
  • Could you try the ‘hokey cokey’ approach I mention- taking on a new (small) role outside schools- perhaps through a secondment? What about becoming an examiner or marker for an exam board?
  • Could an aspect of volunteering help? Have you considered becoming a school governor- at a different school to your own? Here are some websites to look at https://www.sgoss.org.uk/ http://www.nga.org.uk/Be-a-Governor.aspx
  • Ask your favourite education organisations or charities if you could review their materials or develop your own for them. Does your favourite charity have an education section? They sometimes look for teachers to be their advocates or champions and give them feedback on their materials.
  • If things get too much, call the Teacher Support Network http://teachersupport.info/ For advice or support, call their Support Lines on: 08000 562 561 or 08000 855 088 (in Wales) The Support Lines are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are normally free from landlines. Also speak to your GP if you are feeling low and it is affecting your mental or physical health.

Next we will look at ideas for those who’ve decided that you are out of here- and not even a dog dressed as a coastguard will change your mind.

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