How to build back better when leaving a bad job behind

If you find yourself in a school with a poor work culture, you have to move on. This teacher explains how to hit reset

Tes Editorial

Rebuild career

If I had one piece of career advice for unsettled staff, it would be: when the school culture isn’t right, move on.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but at schools where you have poor leadership, it is possible that you will also have a poor work culture. When I discuss this in teaching circles, I'm always sad to hear that some people experience bullying, and that unreasonable demands are part of teachers' day-to-day lives.

It's something I've experienced first-hand. At one point in my career, I found myself working with a few leaders who struggled to hear feedback. At best, they ignored it, and at their worst, took it as an insult and went on to make life difficult for those who spoke up.

Eventually, I found it so intolerable I went to the headteacher to discuss my experience, only to be met with silence. I knew then that I needed to move on.

The ones to lose out in this of course are the students, as they have a transient teaching staff.

If you know you're at the stage where you've had enough, here are my recommendations of what you should do next:

1. Rebuild your confidence

If you've had your confidence knocked by the leadership of your current school, spend some time reminding yourself of what you are capable of.

Sometimes a workplace can grind you down and you lose sight of who you really are. Re-read old letters from students and get in touch with ex-colleagues. Before you look for the next opportunity, make sure you are mentally ready for it.

2. Begin your job search

You should start researching for your next job. If you know the culture of your school is wrong and you’re unable to change things from within you're better off getting out.

Ordinarily, you would tell your headteacher that you're job hunting, however, if you are worried about the repercussions, it might be better to do it discreetly if you are more comfortable with that. 

3. Research a new school carefully 

This can be very hard. Pre-application visits can really help, and you might need to arrange these for after school, or try to find a reason to do a departmental visit. 

Do read everything on their website, and on your interview day ask as many questions as you can. All of these things will help you to get an accurate impression of the school. It is hard, but it can really help.

4. Keep your counsel

Whatever you do, do not speak publicly about your feelings towards your school until you have moved on.

It can be really hard to bite your tongue, but the truth is speaking negatively about your school can make a bad situation even worse.

It is in your own best interests to try to keep relations as smooth as possible until you move on. Once you have left if you feel very strongly about the experience you had, then you might wish to make a complaint, or consider the impact it has had on your mental health.

Life will go on for you and there comes a time where a fresh start does everyone some good, so if the culture isn’t working because the leadership isn’t right then don’t suffer – you have to move on. 

This article was written anonymously by a teacher from London