Breaking up? Here's how

26th February 2010 at 00:00

No one has yet found a subtle way to read recruitment pages, though many have tried. There is a special look on people's faces when they do it. They study the ceiling as if they weren't plotting their escape but thinking noble thoughts about child poverty. It fools no one.

I've left lots of schools, so here are some tips from a seasoned jumper- of-ships and thrower-in-of-towels.

First, we'll skip the part where I say, "Instead of leaving, shouldn't you just manage your time better?" "Time management" is a phrase that assumes you already have enough time and just need to improve your use of it. But if you wanted a car that cost pound;10,000 and you only had pound;5,000, would you think you could buy the car if you just "managed" your money a bit better? No, you wouldn't, and it's the same with time. Schools vary, and some don't give you enough of it.

The other annoying suggestion someone will make is this: "Why not talk to your boss and reach a compromise about workload?" I tried that once. My head of department frowned, said "Hmm" a lot, then drew up a nice plan of how I should be able to do even more. Doom, on one sheet of A4.

Negotiation has one golden rule: know at what point you would walk away. If you don't know that, you're not negotiating, you're begging. Go in with a workable wish list, asking for specific things, like a break from running the drama festival because you teach every year group. You may get somewhere - but if not, at least you know the truth: next year won't be any better if you stay.

The language of leaving has its little prickles. "Can't stand the heat, eh?" It's all in that word "stand", as if enduring a hot kitchen is the pinnacle of human achievement. You'll also hear this: "Nyeh - we always think the grass will be greener on the other side." That's because sometimes it is! And this: "No use running away from things, you know?" Rubbish! Running away from things you don't like is one of life's unsung joys, and can save you years of misery.

Why do people say those things? It may be envy of the one who is about to escape. Then again, maybe they don't give a stuff about you and are just too knackered to think of anything else to say. Sometimes, though, people who love their school feel slightly miffed with someone who wants to leave it. You are ending a relationship. So be nice. And don't tell the truth.

The truth helps no one: "I'm leaving because it's horrible. I'm stressed yet also bored. I drink too much and I use cough syrup to help me sleep, except when I bought the non-drowsy one by mistake. Most of all, I don't want to end up like you. Bye."

Lies are like cushions: comforting and undervalued. So keep it simple, keep it kind and get out. Then go home and stick "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" on your iPod.

Catherine Paver is a writer and part-time English teacher.

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