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Exit basking in warm glowof satisfaction

Just as there's a skill to winning a new appointment, there are right and wrong ways to leave your present post.

Mike Fielding offers tips for a successful departure

You've got the job! Warmed by success and the congratulation of friends, you return to school. And that's when you enter the twilight world of "moving on, but not yet". You are no longer involved in the same way with your present school but not part of the new one either. It's a state of limbo that could last for three months or more. So how will you manage the time?

There are some things you must do and others you will almost certainly want to do. Making a list of these is an important stage in ensuring that you and everyone affected by your leaving get the most out of this period. Handled badly, a teacher's departure can leave the kind of nasty taste that spoils the memories of what has gone before.

Heading your "must" list side is "write resignation letter". Too often, people have to be reminded that, to be effective, and enable the school to start the replacement process, a resignation must be in writing. At the opposite extreme, some leavers agonise over what they should say. Usually the answer is not very much. The basic fact of when you intend to give up your post is all that's required. You might want to add some note of thanks or pleasure for the time you have spent in the school but, if it's been awful, you are probably best leaving a diatribe until nearer your actual departure.

Depending on your current post, the school you are leaving might want you do an exit review. This will involve listing the work you actually do which is probably different from your written job description, unless this has been updated very recently. You may also be asked whether your post, in its present form, should be retained. This is valuable information and the school can benefit from your relative objectivity.

Most heads will allow a day or two for a teacher to visit a new school but it will only be useful if properly planned. Your main interest will be in practical matters as you probably asked all the philosophical questions at interview. So make a list. You could start by brainstorming all the knowledge and procedures, formal and informal, that work in your present post.

These, and perhaps others, you will want to find out about during your visit, although you should avoid responding to whatever you are told with "oh, we do it this way", which could damn you before you arrive.

Remember, too, especially if you're taking on a management role, that the colleagues for whom you'll be responsible will be studying you during the visit to see what kind of person you are. Impressions gained now may last a surprisingly long time, so ensure the person they see is the real you and not a role you've adopted for the day.

While the excitement of your forthcoming departure and the move will naturally fill your mind, there are still children to be taught, books to be marked, meetings to be attended and all the other demanding routines that fill a teacher's life. You will be kept very busy. And, of course, much of your colleagues' time will be spent planning for a school that won't include you.

How you feel during this time will depend on the attitude you're adopting to your departure. If it's a case of "I'm going, so nothing matters", then you may find your own standards and commitment slipping. This could be frustrating. If, on the other hand, you want to make everything absolutely perfect before you leave, you might find yourself missing out on all the pleasure of this time.

Once your formal resignation is written, when do other people get to hear? One thing is certain: it will be impossible to keep it secret. Even if you tell no one, the bush telegraph will still have it on the wires within days, if not hours, of your resigning. Therefore, you need to decide who you want to tell yourself. If this includes your tutor group, then the sooner the better. Your good relationship could be soured by their hearing it secondhand. This may also apply to some colleagues outside the school and parents you have known well.

They will all probably have mixed feelings - genuine pleasure for your success but sadness at your going - and you must be able to accept the one and appreciate the other. This dichotomy will peak at your leaving do, so spend some planning what to say: sincere but not maudlin is the best style.

Before then, however, there are practical tasks to complete: bringing marking and records up to date; preparing detailed briefing notes for your successor (remember you won't be there to ask so the notes need to be full and unambiguous); clearing your deskroomlockerpigeonhole; returning borrowed equipment or books; paying off debts - coffee money, private phone calls, photocopying etc; alerting anyone who writes to you at school; making sure the payroll people know where you're going, particularly if it's out of the auth-ority.

You will also want to be picking up the reins of your new job. However you prepare, there will, inevitably be strangeness and a lot you don't know when you start, but the more you can find out, the better geared up you are likely to be. One source is the details you received when applying for the job; another is to visit the school.

And there is no doubt it should be a pleasure. Whatever the job you're going to, it is a new step on your career path, an opportunity to re-invent yourself and your goals and a chance to look forward from a new perspective. You can also bask in the knowledge that you have done well in your present post and that, although none of us is indispensable, just for a time, at least, you will appear a difficult act to follow.

So make the most of it. Don't show your euphoria too much - other people may get fed up with your constant grin - but, at the same time, be sure to enjoy one of those very rare periods in a teacher's life when the pleasures outweigh the problems.

* Mike Fielding is principal of the Community College, Chulmleigh,North Devon

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