My best move

15th April 2005 at 01:00
If taking the big step seems daunting and the form-filling frightening, take comfort in other teachers' career changes

Julia Upton, head of maths, King Edward VI school, Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk

Although it was the toughest school I ever worked in, the challenging school in Suffolk I moved to made me a far better teacher. The experience gained from dealing with difficult students set me up to be able to work in almost any school. I became a head of faculty too, which I probably wouldn't have got in a better school. After 18 months, I could have been snapped up by any other school in the county. The experience made me a more marketable commodity.

Sue Yeomans, head of Stocks Green primary school, Hildenborough, Kent

Becoming a deputy head was my best move. I'd been in teaching for five years after a long career, which included human resources. My head believed in sharing leadership, and I got the chance to demonstrate my skills and think strategically. This gave me the confidence to move into headship. My head encouraged me to apply for the National Professional Qualification for Headship. As I progressed through the programme, my vision for how I wanted to lead a school became clearer. My head moved to another school and I was faced with a decision about whether to apply for the vacancy. I thought long and hard, and I came to realise how important it was for me to see the completion of some of the initiatives I'd started. I was delighted when I was successful. I love its variety, fast pace and challenge. This is one role where I can lead a team to equip our pupils with as many skills and as much knowledge as we can.

Jane Higgenbottom, primary teacher, working in the United States

Teaching abroad was the best move I made. I loved the children in the Manchester school I was working in. But during my second year, when I had the class from hell, I burnt out. I had no social life and was finding it hard to extricate my emotions from the problems my pupils were having at home. The Visiting International Faculty program was my escape. (VIF is a program for teachers who want to work in the United States.) Working here has given me a fresh insight into the type of teacher I am and reinforced the type of teacher I should be. I'm enjoying it so much, I'm staying for the maximum three years. It will help when I return to the UK to teach.

Sue Cowley, author of How To Survive Your First Year In Teaching (Continuum International Publishing Group, pound;12.99)

I was happily settled in my first teaching post in a great school with great colleagues. I had been there a few years and was ready for a new challenge. My partner's company offered him a posting in Portugal and the lure of sunny skies and sandy beaches was too tempting to turn down! I found a teaching post in an international school quite easily. The only "problem" was that this was January, and the job didn't start until August.

I could have whiled away the days on the beach, but I had always had a yearning to be a writer. I had nothing to lose, so I got to work. The idea was to write from my own experience as a newly qualified teacher, giving practical and honest advice that would help other teachers starting out.

About 20 rejection letters later, a Yes dropped through my door. I couldn't believe it! Of course, teaching in Portugal was a fantastic experience, but that's another story...

Gill Clayton, head of English, Great Torrington community college, north Devon

My best career move was from a difficult inner-city boys' school to a school in north Devon. The inner-city school was a struggle. The boys were great, but behaviour was an issue. In the school in Devon, which has similar problems with poverty and social issues, the kids are more amenable. Maybe it's more laid back and the countryside calms them down, but I can really teach and I have become a better teacher. This has given me greater confidence and a chance to grow professionally. For the past three years I have been a leading English teacher (similar to an advanced skills teacher) and head of a leading English department.

Interviews by Jan Murray

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