Look before you leave

Gerald Haigh

Advice for seasoned practitioners

Spring - and it's itchy feet time again. You've been in your job a long time and maybe you now deserve better. But take care. A quick trawl around a selection of long-serving teachers reveals that a surprising number of them have made at least one bad career move - sometimes from a post in which they were happy and fulfilled into one that had them awake and sweating in the small hours. One talented special needs teacher, for example, looked too hastily for promotion and ended up in an extremely challenging school in a senior management post which he admits he just couldn't handle.

"From being respected, liked and effective in my well-defined role, I went to being the butt of sniggers and half-pitying gossip," he says.

In this case, the teacher fell victim to straightforward peer pressure. He was on a part-time degree programme. As it progressed, one by one his fellow students found new jobs. He felt under pressure not to be left behind.

"I should have taken my time and really thought about what I was good at - matching myself up to what was on offer," he says.

A sense of restlessness is often compounded by a feeling of being taken for granted. Before long you find yourself saying, "I have to get out of this place."

So you start to look at job adverts, and because you're doing it for all the wrong reasons your discrimination and common sense begins to dwindle.

When the grass starts to look greener elsewhere, bear in mind the following three points:

* Once you're in love with an idealised vision of a better job, your capacity for self-delusion is likely to be greatly enhanced. As you look at job adverts, even the names of other schools become alluring and seem to beckon.

* Looking for a new job is like buying a second-hand car. You need to do all the research and ask the hard questions - and be prepared to walk away if you have doubts. There are always other jobs.

* Perhaps all you need to do is wake up to your present good fortune, talk to your senior management and other colleagues, make your presence felt, re-invent your place in the scheme of things and make your current job the new one.

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Gerald Haigh

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