Careers - On your way up, but out of the classroom

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
Promoted? Great. But how do you feel about spending less time at the chalkface? Get your level of contact time right

It's a paradox of the profession. The better you are at teaching, the more likely you are to get promoted. But the more you get promoted, the less teaching you're likely to do - and you can sometimes feel a long way from the job you signed on for.

"I chose this profession because I loved the idea of teaching," says Kersten Jebbett, senior assistant head at Pent Valley Technology College in Kent. "Interacting with pupils can't be beaten." But like most middle and senior leaders, Ms Jebbett has found her contact time whittled away, and following her recent promotion, she now only teaches half a timetable.

"I spend a lot of time on meetings, paperwork, budgeting and reviews," says Ms Jebbett. That means that when she does get in the classroom she tries to make the most of it. "I would really miss it if I lost all my teaching. It's a privilege I'm lucky to have."

Will Wale, a consultant at Creative Education, says that as you get promoted, it's vital to keep valuing your teaching. "Colleagues will expect you to be a role model. So even if you're teaching less, you have to stay in the groove. You need to find time for your own planning and preparation and make sure your lessons don't suffer."

"Time management is the key," agrees Ms Jebbett. "Everyone wants a piece of you. Being keen and eager isn't enough, you need to prioritise and you need a good team behind you. Overall I think I'm lucky. I have a good balance between being a teacher and a leader."

But this kind of juggling act doesn't work for everyone. If taking on leadership duties affects your teaching, or you're not getting enough time in the classroom, then there is always another solution - get back to being a teacher.

Andy Markwick was deputy head for five years at Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College in London, but found that the job just wasn't quite right for him. "I wasn't doing as much teaching as I wanted, and my lessons weren't as fantastic as they might have been. It was nice being in the senior leadership team, but my heart has always been in the classroom - it's where I buzz."

The answer for Mr Markwick was to step into the role of advanced skills teacher, with the full support of his school, taking responsibility for teaching and learning. Now he spends four days a week teaching his own classes, and the other helping colleagues develop classroom skills, or working with local primaries. His new role, he says, is varied, fulfilling and absolutely worth the pay cut.

"It was a big decision. I'd be earning #163;10k a year more as deputy head. But there's more to life than money, and it's great to be completely focused on teaching again. I've got 15 years left in my career. I want to spend them doing what I really love."

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

- Keep a diary of how you use your time. Is the balance right?

- Remember you can step down the career ladder as well as up.

- Many deputies teach less than half a timetable, most heads less than five hours a week.

- NCSL Leadership Pathways prepares teachers for leadership roles. www.ncsl.org.uk

- Creative Education teaches time management skills www.creativeeducation.co.uk.

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