I recently asked the question on Twitter, “Do I know anyone on here who has resigned from a teaching post before securing another job?”
Within a few hours I had nearly 300 replies. The messages I received were inspiring, brave and ambitious. Some talked of the need to protect their mental health, others needed to move to new locations, and there were some who needed to remove themselves from particular individuals who were making life difficult, while others felt philosophical objections to the ways in which they were being made to work. Regardless of the reasons for doing so, it is clear that there are times in life when circumstances dictate action despite having little knowledge of what may come next and where you might land.
Assistant headteacher, Ian Mitchell, took the leap of resigning without a job to go to when it became the obvious course of action. He explained, “I knew I had been struggling with my mental health for some time and had seen a doctor a few months previously where I had been given a diagnosis of depression. My headteacher had been really supportive, as had my fiancé, now wife, who taught in the same school. I had got into a really negative cycle of hardly exercising and drinking heavily at weekends. I had begun thinking that I had to get out of teaching."
“I had looked around for other jobs but didn’t see anything that really grabbed me, and I also thought that maybe a change of school would be enough; like I owed it to myself and the career I had chosen to try somewhere else. I’ll never forget the day I decided to just quit though. I was sat at my sister-in-law’s house with my fiancé whilst they were chatting and I just announced “I’ve decided I’m quitting school.” They heard me out and it was like a weight was lifted immediately. I planned to go in first thing on the Monday and tell the head, which I did and it went ok. Again, the weight lifted further. I knew I wasn’t too proud for any kind of work and was fully prepared to do a couple of jobs if needed to pay the mortgage and upcoming wedding. Fortunately, through a friend of my wife’s I learnt of an opportunity in an SEMH school so went for a change of direction and loved it. It fits far better with my views and values of education than a mainstream system in many respects, although there are of course aspects that I do miss."
“My career has taken a massive direction change (mainstream secondary PE to primary special SENDCO/Assistant Head) but it has really made me value stepping outside of your comfort zone and not being afraid to fail. I would say it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family as they trusted me and didn’t panic on my behalf for what many might see as a reckless decision. It allowed me to fall back in love with education again and want to continue to pursue a career that I’d always wanted to.”
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While Ian’s change of direction fell into place with a permanent position, for Nicki Allman her resignations meant a change of country and a switch to temporary work so far. She explained, “I resigned from a Professional Development lead role in Singapore and we came home due to the pandemic. Neither my husband or I had jobs to come back to. We arrived back in England the day before the first lock down in March 2020. We’d decided that whilst we loved international living, it was right to come home for a while. We didn’t get jobs until mid-June 2020, which meant moving to Scotland. However, I also resigned from this senior post without a job to go to. My husband was offered a Head’s post back in London which cemented our reasons to move ‘home’. We came back to London in April. It was right to move closer to family.
“I’ve applied for many roles without success due to being overseas and then Scotland for the past 7 years. I’ve been lucky in obtaining some freelance work for some publishing and curriculum resource companies in the past so have been able to offer my services there which has also provided me with the opportunity to research and get up to date with the recent changes. I have joined a supply agency so I could get my enhanced DBS and also get some up-to-date teaching. I’ve also volunteered at a local school to be an extra hand on trips etc. As well as this I’ve done some online courses to upskill myself so I can work within education but not in schools if needs be.
“As yet I’ve not gone back into a permanent job but all this has helped me gain temporary work.”
If you have recently resigned without a clear path ahead, don’t worry, there is plenty you can do! These five key points may help:
If you have resigned due to challenging experiences or circumstances then it is important to give yourself some recovery time if at all possible. It may be that you need support to do this, if so your GP can help and there is counselling available from Education Support (www.educationsupport.org.uk).
What do you love about the job that you want to do more of? What do you dislike and would like to avoid in future? These simple reflections can help to guide you to the kind of job you want to do next.
You don’t need to have a completely linear career. Take a left or right turn, or even what might be perceived by some as a backward step, but every experience teaches you something. The aim here is that your next step serves you better in the long run.
There is support out there for you! This is what FEjobs can offer:
- Job alerts that you can sign up to so that you are notified when new and relevant vacancies go live.
- Join Talent Pools – for a specific job or through a college’s career page/site that you’re interested in.
- Career advice and support from industry experts including CV and interview tips.
Stay positive and focused
What do you really want from your career? Where do you really want to be? It will be possible to find something to suit your needs, even if it takes a little while to get there.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.