5 ways to leave your job well with your head held high

Moving on from a teaching role is often a mixture of emotions and administration - but make sure you leave in the right way, for everyone's benefit

Maddy Jones

As a school leader, what should you do when a valued member of staff says they want to leave?

As we approach the second half of term three, those of us leaving our schools for pastures new are getting ready to say our goodbyes.

Whether you are leaving for a promotion, going to a new country, just fancy a change or because of Covid, it’s never easy saying goodbye.

However, leaving your old job well is as important as making a good first impression when you start a new job. But in all the mix of admin, emotions and excitement about your next chapter, how do you make sure you get leaving right? Here are some tips.

1. Stay positive

Whatever your reason for the change is, embrace it. Change is opportunity. A new school means a new start, new people and new adventures.

I’m really sad to be leaving my current school and my colleagues, who have become my friends during my time there, but I’m not going to spend time crying over my departure. I’m going to be grateful for the time I have had there and the opportunities I was given.

If, unfortunately, your time at a particular school has been unhappy, try to focus on what was good. It can’t all have been bad.

Think about the people around you who supported you, the students who made you smile and the lessons that you learnt. Reflect on what it taught you about what you value at a school, and embrace the fact that it will have made you stronger and more resilient for the future.

2. Plan your goodbyes

Make a list of everyone you want to say goodbye to: from the guy in the print room to the staff in the canteen, your trusty teaching assistant to your leading line manager, the librarians, the school counsellor and, of course, the students. Make sure you plan what you’ll say and mean it.

It’s easy to think that you’ll be able to remember everyone and come up with the right words in the moment but it’s harder than you think – and don’t underestimate how much people value your acknowledgments and gratitude. It’s not every day you get to do this.

The majority of the staff you are saying goodbye to may have been at the school a long time and are still staying. It’s easy to especially take our support staff for granted on a daily basis, so acknowledging your appreciation to them means a lot.

If you are leaving a country you love, say your goodbyes to the culture, too. Indulge in your favourite restaurants, visit those sights you might not be back to see and buy a small souvenir to take with you on your next adventure.  

3. Be respectful

We all leave for a wide variety of reasons and, whatever they are, we should respect the fact that not everyone is leaving.

Be respectful that the school gave you a job in the first place. Be respectful to those who are still working there – they don’t want to hear your negative criticisms about a place that they still need to work in.

Be respectful of the fact that not everyone may share your views about the school.  Again, it’s about managing an exit with decorum and respect for those around you.

4. Make that exit interview count

Not all schools give you a formal exit interview but, if you do get one, then make it count. Plan what you are going to say in advance and write down notes to take in with you.

This is your last chance to really explain why you are leaving as well as leave the last impression of you. Some of what you want to say may be personal but some issues may be issues that you feel are needed to be voiced for the whole school community.

 Again, if you want your words to make a difference and to be heard, plan what you are going to say so that you can remain measured and calm if you are finally getting a tricky or challenging topic off your chest.

5. Don’t burn your bridges

Wherever you are moving to, try not to burn your bridges when you leave. You never know where or with whom you are going to end up with again. If you’re making a speech, don’t make any tacky or crude jokes, or remarks at another colleague’s expense. It’s just not necessary.

I moved from the UK to Malaysia and have still ended up with people from the same small town on the Wirral working with me. Never mind the local education authority being a small place – it really is a small world!

If this last year has taught me anything, it’s that change is imminent but it is also an opportunity. As I say goodbye at end of this term, I’m excited to say hello to my new school. 

Maddy Jones is key stage 4 director at an international school in Malaysia

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Maddy Jones

Maddy Jones is KS4 Director at an international school in Malaysia.

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