Out of all the wonderful, talented individuals I have had the privilege to serve, a particular group stands out. I have coached a significant number of teachers who have either recently left the profession, or who are in the midst of asking themselves whether or not they should stay or go. Recognising that this appears to be a dilemma affecting a significant number of colleagues made me want to understand the situation at a deeper level – not least because I can put myself in this group albeit a long time ago. I ‘left’ the profession for eight years at one point and came back all the stronger having discovered my ‘element’ (Robinson, 2010).
Weale, writing in The Guardian, states: “Around one in five teachers (18%) expect to leave the classroom in less than two years while two-fifths of teachers, school leaders and support staff want to quit in the next five years” (2019). One expects ebb and flow as retirement beckons and fresh blood arrives, but these statistics are worrying and I was curious.
I posted a simple social media message asking if I could chat to anyone thinking of leaving the profession. Within three or four minutes five people, including some complete strangers, got in touch. I spoke to each of them individually for an hour or so. I wanted to hear their story and, it turns out, they wanted to tell their story.
One colleague felt they were continually being overlooked for promotion and felt leaving teaching was the only way to make progress. Two colleagues felt they had been placed in untenable situations in school and they were not prepared to compromise their principles. Both had left teaching – one had found work in HR and another was planning to take a year off to travel overseas. Another colleague was drowning under an unbearable workload and had given notice; they had secured a part-time teaching post elsewhere. The last person I spoke to felt undermined and overwhelmed and voiced a desire to leave teaching to set up their own education-related business – with their permission our discussion moved into a coaching conversation and we spent considerable time working on their long term vision and short term goals.
What did I find out? All five of my discussion group voiced concern over the lack of professional trust they had received. They all indicated a sense of guilt about leaving (or thinking about leaving) the profession they loved. Themes of overwork, bullying and/or frustration, leading to stress and anxiety, emerged. All five said that simply talking to someone had made them feel better – they rated ‘being listened to’ as instrumental to finding their way out of the maze and essential for well-being.
I was moved by their stories and realised there must be hundreds of colleagues who simply need someone to listen to them and to help them find a space where they can navigate this critical moment in their lives. I’ve responded to this by creating a bespoke coaching package called ‘Stay or Go?’ A safe place where colleagues will be valued, where they will be listened to and where their ideas and solutions will be gently revealed. ‘Stay or Go?’ is not about encouraging an exodus from the profession. Far from it. It’s about helping individuals to realise who they are and where their feelings are coming from. It’s about helping them to flourish and to fall back in love with teaching, or to find an alternative way to fulfil the dreams they had when they first entered the profession.
I’d be interested to hear your story. Are you about to jump? Are you desperate to find a way to stay? Hit the contact button below to start a conversation.
Stay or Go? A coaching package designed to help teachers navigate a critical moment in their personal and professional lives. It’s simple, cost effective and life-changing. Further details: www.liztaplin.com/programmes
Robinson, K. (2010) The Element – How finding your passion changes everything. Penguin.
Weale, S. (2019). Fifth of teachers plan to leave profession within two years. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/apr/16/fifth-of-teachers-plan-to-leave-profession-within-two-years (Accessed: 20th January 2020).