The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Nicola Harvey

Is teaching your true calling?

Wondering about leaving teaching and transitioning to another role in education? Nicola Harvey shares ways to create change.

Teachers play a key role in shaping the lives of the future generation. They make a difference far beyond exam results, attendance records and school league tables. And often find themselves mentoring, supporting and creatively engaging with their students to inspire them to fulfil their potential in life.

Whilst teaching can be incredibly rewarding, it does not come without its challenges. Poor work/life balance, limited resources and unrealistic work expectations are often cited as the reasons many teachers feel overwhelmed, impacting their mental health and wellbeing.

Seeking new opportunities

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2019 found more than half of all educators had considered leaving the profession over the past two years. The majority were seeking opportunities in slower paced environments with more manageable workloads, less accountability and more realistic expectations placed upon them.

With around one in five teachers expected to leave the classroom in less than two years, the question on many teachers’ lips is: what next?

Identifying your strengths and using them on a regular basis will help inform the path of your career

Here are five practical ways to help you evaluate if teaching really is your true calling and how to transition into a new profession. And if teaching is your passion, use this activity to help you prioritise the changes you can make to support your wellbeing and regain control of your life and career.

1. Weigh up the pros and cons

Create a list of the pros and cons about your current teaching role.

This activity will help you objectively evaluate your current situation from a more grounded perspective. It also helps you take out emotional attachment and personal biases, giving clarity to the decision-making process as to whether or not your heart is still in teaching and why you became a teacher.

I suggest that you handwrite this list, as the active motion of pen on paper can help your thinking process (for more on this, check out these benefits of handwriting).

After this activity, you may find that continuing teaching is the best option for you, but perhaps in a completely different setting.

You won’t know unless you try…

2. Identify your strengths

Teachers spend a lot of time building the strengths of their students, encouraging them to take risks and learn new skills. All too often whilst busy multitasking, they neglect to do this for themselves.

Identifying your strengths and using them on a regular basis will help inform the path of your career and has a positive impact on your life. It not only increases your self-esteem and builds resilience, but also enables you to recognise your unique traits and build upon them.

The HIGH5 strengths test is a free resource which features a detailed strengths audit, resulting in a list of your own top five strengths.

Once you’ve completed the HIGH5 test, have a think about which strengths resonated with you. Were there any surprises? Why? How can you use these strengths to support you in your daily life?

3. Find a career coach

It may help you to work with a professional coach outside of your network to gain a fresh, neutral perspective on your next steps.

Career coaching can help you find the clarity you need to take control and make changes in your life and career. Tailored to support your needs, coaching can bring more focus and help you feel, think and act differently to make the lasting changes you can be proud of.

Be sure to practice self-compassion and take things step by step. Big changes don’t happen overnight

To find a good coach, go online and do a thorough search. Many coaches offer free consultations so you can get a feel for how they will work with you and whether coaching is right for you.

A great start may be through Purposeful Educators - a coaching company set up by a former teacher offering experienced and early career teachers workshops and modular programmes to help clarify your values, practice self-compassion and develop skills to overcome your inner critic.

If you’d prefer to do things at your own pace or read up on how to coach yourself, here’s a few practical books which may help.

Or, check out the Optimus Education online course Coaching for Change, where teachers learn a firm grasp of what coaching is, how it can help during times of uncertainty and the different coaching models they can use to support their careers.

Whether you gain the support of a professional or choose to go at your own pace, be sure to practice self-compassion and take things step by step. Big changes don’t happen overnight.

4. Choose a new career path

Teachers need to know their subject, have good communication skills, be able to multitask in an organised way and be personable when interacting with different people. These skills are transferrable to many other (less pressurised) professions.

Revisit your top five strengths; look at how you could bring these and your personal interests into a new career. It may be that you need to retrain, volunteer, network or simply do some more research, but there are options and that’s a good start!

Here’s a top 10 list of careers you might consider after teaching.

  1. Non-teaching role in a school or college
  2. Private tutor
  3. Counsellor or psychotherapist
  4. Mindfulness teacher
  5. Life coach
  6. Education content writer
  7. Online course creator
  8. Education consultant
  9. Training and development manager
  10. Human resources manager

Take a look at the National Careers Service website to get information and guidance to help you explore a range of career options and entry routes.

5. Practice mindfulness

Embarking on a new career or revaluating how you can make the best of your current teaching role can be overwhelming. This is where mindfulness can help.

Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing at that moment without judging any thoughts, feelings or sensations that may arise.

Throughout each of the steps above, be sure to take a few moments each day to breathe and be present. If practiced regularly, mindfulness can make all the difference to your physical, mental and emotional health. Recognise and tune into yourself in the present moment and appreciate how far you have come.

You may want to sign up to an eight-week 'Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction' (MBSR) course to help you learn and embed practical mindfulness strategies and new habits to support your mental health and wellbeing.

More specifically for teachers, Mindfulness First is an organisation which offers evidence-based courses, free teacher forums and programmes on using mindful awareness and PSHE schemes to provide children and adults with the tools they need to manage stress and navigate life’s challenges.

Teachers make a difference

Lastly, you may find that after all the above, teaching really is your true calling. And although it can be tough at times, realise that whatever path you do choose teachers truly make a difference and are valuable contributors to the world.

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