The best teachers are taken away from the classroom the further up the career ladder they move. The education sector has always wrestled with an important challenge – one of many, of course – in that it is, ultimately, the quality of teaching and the classroom experience that enables students to progress.
A classroom teacher has the heaviest teaching work load. Heads of department will have a lighter timetable. This trend continues up to senior leadership, where many headteachers don’t even teach at all.
However, employees in any industry will want to progress up the career ladder. Many people are naturally ambitious. What’s more, UK schools are currently in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis. The school leaders of tomorrow are the classroom teachers of today.
Don’t take on too much, but take your opportunities when they come up
Recruitment and retention issues mean that progression up the school career ladder can be a little quicker than it might have been in previous years. However, advice that was once given still rings true.
One of the accepted ways of climbing the career ladder is to take on extra responsibilities (sometimes unpaid) to ‘show willing’ – but also to show that your talents extend beyond the classroom. However, there is a balance to strike between taking up opportunities when they arise and taking on too much. Newly qualified teachers should really focus their energies on developing their teaching craft first and foremost.
Proof of impact and whole-school vision
Taking on some form of departmental responsibility can be an important stepping stone to climb your career ladder. The crucial thing is to be able to demonstrate the impact you have had – and if this can be beyond your own teaching groups, all the better.
Most middle management positions will enable you to have a wider impact on your subject department and, hopefully, the wider school too. This will stand you in good stead to make the move up a senior leadership position.
Handle your different priorities
One of the most important things to consider if you want to move up the career ladder seamlessly and with success is the extent to which your priorities change.
For example, a senior leader will not have the same responsibilities as a classroom teacher with a full teaching timetable, but you should never forget what it feels like to be in their shoes.
There is a massive difference between teaching 10-15 a lessons a week (as many senior leaders do) and teaching 21 lessons (as a classroom teacher might).
You always need to work with and not against teaching staff. It is your job a senior leader to support staff by enabling them to do the best job they can do in the classroom.
Retain credibility and be a role model
One of the major eye-openers that many middle leaders experience is the feeling that their own teaching is suffering because of their other responsibilities. Something has to give, and often it feels like it is your own teaching. This is for simple reason that all the other demands on your time make it virtually impossible to spend the same amount of time on planning and marking.
However, as a middle leader or senior leader you absolutely have to retain full credibility and be a role model in everything you do. Your teaching and marking have to be an example to others, if you are to climb career ladder.