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Pitfalls to avoid for teachers leaving or starting at a school

13 Aug 2021

Pitfalls to avoid for teachers leaving or starting at a school

By Mark Richards, 



As the end of term approaches, many teachers will be about to leave their present school to move onto pastures new. There are some pitfalls to bear in mind as you leave one school and start another.


Stay committed

It’s only natural, as a teacher coming to the end of their tenure, to have at least part of your mind on your new position. It’s possible that you may have visited your new school, or even have started receiving emails from them. However, your allegiance and commitment have to remain with your current school. Remember that in most cases you will be under contract with your current school until 31 August.

You should stay professional at all times in every way.


Don’t leave problems for your colleagues or replacement

Most schools employ some sort of exit interview process for departing staff. A part of this is to ensure a successful transition of classes and to check that things that should have been marked have been, and so on.

Sometimes, rather than downing tools people overcompensate and take extra things on to ensure that the memory of how good they are is ingrained on their colleagues once they have moved on. Occasionally, the thought of sabotaging things for the person taking over or current colleagues can cross somebody’s mind. 

The best way to approach things is to remember that the bottom line is the students. You should do nothing that might harm their learning. Out of professional pride, you should aim to make things as simple and straightforward as possible for your successor.


Resist the temptation to complain and moan

Many teachers leave a school with mixed feelings. They have enjoyed their time at the school and are actually quite sad to leave. It is just a fact of life - and a teaching career - that you sometimes just need to move on to the next step. However, there is occasionally a degree of bad feeling and bitterness as a teacher prepares to move schools. They might feel aggrieved that they were passed up for promotion, for example. 

It can be tempting to offload your grumbles and gripes to anyone that might listen: pupils, colleagues in the staff room, or in your leaving speech. Resist these urges. There are correct channels for airing grievances. You will gain nothing from sounding off in front of people as you leave.


Don’t just talk about your previous school

When you start a new school, you might begin to realise that there were many aspects of your old school that were exceptional. You should not make these feelings public. Constantly talking about how good something was at your old school will make you appear to be quite patronising to your new colleagues.

Naturally, you will bring your experiences and many things you learned from your old school to your new one. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that simply moving one policy or strategy from one school to another very rarely works. Even the best approaches need to be adapted to meet the individual context of your new choice.


Don’t compare yourself to your predecessor

Even if you are not impressed by the way things have been handed over to you or by the way your predecessor may have done things, you should not talk them down.
By all means, make the changes you think are necessary but don’t get into a comparison game or blame game.


Don’t set unrealistic expectations you can’t meet

Everybody wants to make a good first impression in their new role. You will want to make a good but what you do needs to be sustainable. Don’t set yourself up to fail in the future.




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