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Should I stay or should I go?

It is that time of year when understandably many of us get itchy feet. We have had a couple of weeks downtime and the thought of going back to work produces a range of emotions. On most of the occasions where I have changed job - or attempted unsuccessfully to change job - the decision to try something new was made in January. Most significantly, 3 years ago when I stepped down from my head of department role and went mainly self-employed.

Should I stay...

Change is of course scary and it is worth pausing to unpick the reasons why we are thinking about a change. In teaching this can be a range of things: students, staff, managers, workload, as well as changes in our life circumstances such as health and relationships. Before you plan to jump ship - why not ask yourself a few questions

  • Are things in my present role likely to get better or worse? Will that manager you don't get on with retire or move on? Are you likely to be back in your main subject area next year? Is there a reasonable chance of promotion (if that is what you seek)? Institutions change over time. Is this current difficulty something you can wait out?

  • Is this role (still) a good fit for my skills? Do I feel out of my depth at times? Am I bored or stuck in a rut? Am I developing/being developed? Am I going backwards? Or maybe I am doing ok and elsewhere would be worse!

  • How are you seen/regarded at work? There are some places where you get pigeonholed or perceived in a certain way. Perhaps you have got off on the wrong foot and never really recovered. Or perhaps you are respected and highly esteemed. Which is it? Is it likely to change?

Our feelings about our present situation are just that - feelings and emotions. Nothing wrong with that but it is worth trying to deploy the rational side of our brain as well.

You might benefit from a sounding board as well as your own thoughts. Perhaps there is someone wise in your staffroom that you can discretely talk to. Remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side!

...Or should I go?

As scary as change can be, for some of us it is exactly what we need. It may be a change of school or a more radical change. There is a national shortage of teachers so there is no harm in being brave. You are unlikely to be left without some form of employment

So if change is what you seek, a few thoughts

  • Engage in parallel planning: until you make your final decision it is worth putting things in place that ensure you don't burn any bridges. During my last 12 months of full time work I engaged in designing my website for a possible business and ensuring that my CV was up to scratch in case I applied for senior roles

  • Think about your SHAPE: The S-etting you work in is only one of the letters of the SHAPE acronym. Think about H-eart - what are you passionate about? A-bilities - what are your key skills? P-ersonality - what are your best traits? and your E-xperiences? what has developed in you through life and career experiences? (whether you wanted it to or not!) We work best when we are able to do things that in someway connect to who we are.

  • Do your research: If you are applying to other schools, be the detective. What lies beneath the glossy website? Do you know people in real life or online who work there. If it is a business that you are developing, what is the competition and what will your USP be? Are there any groups you can join online that will help you to connect?

  • A pint or a coffee with your critical friend: If you are contemplating a move - particularly a radical one - a chat with a critical and honest friend is essential. It may not be a best friend but someone who knows you fairly well, knows the industry well, and isn't afraid to ask you difficult questions or present awkward truths. It is likely to be an hour well spent.

  • Baby Steps to test the water: It may be that you are able to take a few baby steps to see if your plans will work out. If you are in school, that might be asking a senior colleague if you can shadow something or get involved in running a venture. If you are outside of school perhaps a small scale pilot. Prior to making my final decision I was able to run a couple of small online revision events and was able to sound out my exam board regarding other marking possibilities.

So if you are in the midst of making big decisions about your next move, I hope that you are able to some space in the next few weeks - and before Easter - to decide what happens next. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether you should stay or go. I hope you make the right decisions for you this academic year!

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