Alternatives to Classroom Teaching

Anglsey morning

There are plenty of fields open to someone with a teaching qualification or teaching experience.
Photo: D. Gillie, Anglesey morning.

For whatever reason and at different points in their career, some teachers decide to move out of classroom teaching and some choose not to enter classroom teaching altogether.  Indecision about whether to stay or go can be a positive indicator – it could be telling you that you are already in the process of making a change in your life.  What could be helpful is talking to someone impartial (e.g., a acareers/using-careers-service/talk-to-adviser” target=”_blank”>careers adviser ) to help you clarify your needs, values and aspirations before deciding in what direction your new future might lie.

Esme Kettle published a short guide to thinking about leaving in the Guardian last week (scroll to the bottom of the article).  The advice on what to do with the results of your self-audit are a little too directive from a careers guidance point of view – but her suggestions in the ‘guide’ are valid and could help you get started in the decision making process.  Another avenue of support is the teacher support network who offer coaching, counselling and other resources to those who are currently teaching.

Leaving teaching or moving out of the classroom can be difficult decisions to make.  Depending on the individual, resulting emotions can range from relief, guilt,  excitement, anger, elation, sorrow, anxiety, panic and everything in between.  There are steps you can take to make the transition a little more comfortable:

  • Have some sort of plan in place, no matter how modest, before you leave.
  • Think about your network – who is based placed to support you and how? The best shoulder to cry on might not be the one best placed to give you impartial feedback on your CV.  Use informational interviewing and other techniques to find out more about jobs you are curious about. If it feels right personally and depending on what your next career move is, stay in touch with teaching colleagues.
  • Many people might tell you what you “should” do next. Seeking insight from people who know you well – who can give you feedback on your strengths, achievements and areas to work on – is invaluable in getting a complete picture of yourself – but, ultimately, the decision about what you “should” be doing has to be yours. Students occasionally come in and ask me to tell them what they should do. I’m touched that after roughly 2 minutes of acquaintance they trust me to make one of the most profound decisions of their lives. The answer is within you – sometimes it just takes a bit of time, work and support to reveal it.
  • Focus on your successes – leaving a job for, even for the right reasons, can, for some, feel like a failure – or other people’s reactions might make it feel that way.  Knowing your successes, achievements and being able to recount things that went well can help mitigate these feelings (and uninformed opinions of others).  It’s also valuable self-knowledge for working out what your next steps might be – and give you evidence for using on future applications.
  • Give yourself a bit of breathing room if you need it, but be sure to reflect on how and why you made your decision.  You may be concerned that future employers will see your decision negatively, but if you can talk about it positively, confidently and provide a coherent, evidence-based narrative it can show you in a positive light. And don’t dwell on it in applications and interviews – keep the focus on your successes and your ability to do the job you are going for.

In case you are wondering about alternatives, every two years, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisers publishes a a guide to Alternative Education Careers – the most recent edition came out earlier this year: AGCAS Education Alternatives 2013

On the Careers Service website, you will find additional information on alternatives in our Occupations pages:

Teaching – non-school and college

Education advice and development

Social guidance and community work

Depending on your skills, experience and inclinations, there may be a range of opportunities in other occupational areas, so feel free to explore (NB: If you are interested in policy work, education administration and related areas , they hide in Administration)


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