Dear John: I've reached the end of the line. Is a job in Tesco what's left for me?


I’ve reached the end of the line.  After 12 years in teaching, I just can’t take it anymore.  I’m off sick with stress and I just can’t face going back to school.  My headteacher is less than sympathetic and I’m at a loss as to what to do. What do failed teachers do as a new career?  I think I might end up working in Tesco.  As I have to give my HT as a reference, how will I ever find another job anywhere?

This has ruined my life.


Ring the Teacher Help Line and talk with one of their staff. For more details or ring 08000 562 561 if you are in England. There are different numbers for teachers in Wales or Scotland.  

There is a lot of help available and lots of possible alternative jobs for teachers even in a recession. You have superb people management skills, can multi-task with the best of them, understand how people tick and are used to planning and assessment. What more could many employers as for?

Seriously, you are seeing the world from a low point in your life and it does not always have to be like that. There are even good schools that don’t have large numbers of staff off sick with stress. It has not ruined your life, just this point in it.

Lots of readers of this clinic will tell you that life hasn’t always been easy for them and if you have read any of the other answers on this clinic, you will know that my own career hasn’t been either straightforward or easy. After a temporary job came to an end in the mid 1980s, I had no work and thought I had no prospects. But neither, even during a period recession and falling school rolls, turned out to be the case.

Perseverance and a bit of luck turned my career around. As I write this I am procrastinating about starting work on something else I have to do, because I don’t want to do it. We are all like that at times. Every summer most teachers have thoughts about the new term and whether their teaching skills are still there; it is only natural. So, talk to those who understand and let them advise you on what you should do next.

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, includinga brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes Universityand hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.