This conversation is for every teacher who has toyed with the idea that perhaps they’re not as happy as they’d like with their teaching. I don’t mean all the *extra* we’re dealing with, but deep down within your core.
Perhaps you need clarity and validation that teaching is absolutely still your thing. Perhaps you are on the fence. Perhaps you’re ready to get out. No matter where you sit, this one is for you!
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Emily: Hi there! This week is a little bit different. I’m talking with Angela Wilson about a topic that I almost feel like I shouldn’t be talking about. That topic is all about leaving teaching. How do you know if you are truly ready to leave? How do you know if you just need a break? If you are set on leaving, what happens now?
These things I discuss with Angela, who is in a uniquely perfect position to advise us about it all. Angela is herself and ex teacher turned career coach. She has gone through this exact thing herself, twice in fact, and is now in the business of helping others clarify their career desires and providing direction for getting there.
She’s very attuned to the unique complexities of teaching obviously having been a teacher herself, and she really uses personalized approaches to help you sort through the mess that’s in your mind, and also helps you to sort through the huge amounts of opinion that you’re probably getting from a lot of other people if you try and talk to them about your career progression. So this conversation today is for all of you sitting there wondering if teaching is still the right career for you. Maybe you’re just a bit curious about what else is out there, or maybe you want some clarity and confirmation that teaching is still for you.
Enjoy. Good morning, Angela. How are you today?
Angela Wilson: I’m great, Emily. Thanks for having me here.
Emily: Thank you so much for being here. To start with, I’d love if you would share a bit of your background into how you became a teacher, how you became not a teacher, how you went back into teaching, how you went back outta teaching again, as I’m sure this is a story that a lot of our listeners are gonna resonate with today.
Angela Wilson: Sure. Well, I became a teacher back in 2006, so 14 years ago, I finished my studies and had those plans to be a teacher. And that was my only plan. Really that teaching was my forever job. And I was so excited to step into the industry. I became a prep teacher. So I’m primary school trained and had that experience that, oh, I’m just in the right job.
I love everything about it. I came home telling people all of the stories that my preps would be doing each and every day. And. I was just so happy that that was what I got to do every day. I felt like I got to play with children and create things and make a real difference. And it was when I had my own children.
So I’ve got two children that I began to find a little bit of. It was a struggle within, how can I give to my students and come home and give to my children just as much as I want to. I, I didn’t want to have to compromise on any of those two areas. And so that for me became a little bit of a stirring within about, well, how can I still do my job and still be that parent that I want to be.
And it was pretty much when, I guess from my first daughter to my second daughter was very different circumstances. So after my first daughter, I thought I’m just gonna try a few different things. Maybe I need to go part-time, maybe I need to do some casual work and have a lot more flexibility. So I tried a few different things.
I even moved into a different sector. So I went from public to Catholic, and just thought maybe it is about maybe doing the specialist. So I tried a bit of everything. I was a classroom teacher. I was a PE teacher, a drama teacher. And I really gave everything a good go. And I still had that sinking feeling that I just couldn’t be the teacher that I knew I wanted to be.
And it was very easy decision to have my second child. And it was through the birth of that and bringing up the two children now that I began to become really curious about what else was out there that was even more flexible and more aligned to who I was. Cause I noticed that my interest has had shifted.
So I sort of followed those interests while I was on maternity leave. And became a trainer at an obesity rehabilitation. So I found something outside of teaching and that took a little of exploration and I found that I was still teaching in a very different space, in a different industry. And I became a wellness coach through that.
And I realized that coaching for me was really at the heart of who I wanted to be. And so I followed that journey even became a Pilates instructor. I just loved how that I could follow those interests, do little short courses and
Emily: Still keep that passion.
Angela Wilson: Exactly. Yeah. And it was always tied to teaching and learning and growing.
And it was in 2016 that I went through an unexpected change in my life. A fierce windstorm swept through my quiet suburb and it uprooted a massive gum tree that landed on my house.
It crushed everything.
We were in the home. We saw everything and it crushed our cars and really my plans for the future to continue sort of down that avenue changed and I was forced back into teaching to finance the rebuild of our home. That was a big goal of mine to rebuild, to take care of my family. And so, uh, here I was, I been outta teaching for about four years and I was back in it. I made it work and I really feel like that step back.
It was gradual and it was then it was very quick. So I think about how I went back into C T and I tried a few different schools and I instantly, I mean, teaching never leaves you. So I instantly was able to go back into the classroom and,
Emily: Pretty much pick up where you left off.
Angela Wilson: Yeah, I, I pretty much did. And I had to reregister, so I even deregistered as a teacher and re-registering was very easy.
I got straight back in, I got contract work within a couple of months and then I was offered and poached to another school and, and went back into full-time teaching and it happened very quickly and it was to help for the rebuild of my home. So I think that goal really kept me going, and I had that reason why I was doing it, and I was having fun along the way.
I think I’d taken the pressure off and I decided once we moved back into our home, so we rebuilt and we were, we were back in, I took another contract for another year. I thought everything seems to be going okay, I’ll, I’ll take on another.
Yeah. I had been placed back into teaching who would’ve thought that I’d come back in and I’ve actually redid my V I T.
So I’m from Victoria and that’s how you become a fully registered teacher. And I went through that process again, it was very easy cause I’d done it before. And so here I was a full-time teacher again, contract for another year and I felt like it was a fresh start and I came back into a grade one, two class. And within the first week, everything that I had previously left teaching before had, was shown to me loud and clear that teaching was not for me. It was my first week and I went, this I I’m done now. I just cannot continue to be a teacher. Yet it was the first week. It was the first couple of weeks. And how can I, how can I possibly leave again? And I just knew within that I wasn’t gonna go and try all these different things again, that I knew that it was okay. I’ve done this before. I’ve been in this position. I know that I need to explore who I was after everything I’d been through. When I looked back, I went, I’ve been through a massive, unexpected change.
I’m a different person. Teaching now I knew wasn’t my forever job. And well, what can I do with all of the skills and experience that I have? And I began to question everything and that’s when I found that I was in a career crisis because I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know where I wanted to be.
And there was lots of unknown and I felt tied again to teaching and that I committed for a year. How can I possibly leave? The, the children, the parents, the school.
Emily: Did it make you feel a bit like a, a failure almost like you were giving up?
Angela Wilson: Well that was a big part of it that I didn’t wanna give up that I had these children that I’d committed to and that I,
Emily: Depending on you.
Angela Wilson: Yeah. Yeah. And that I would every day, wake up and go, how can I still provide for these children and turn up and show up. Even though I knew that there was these stirrings going on inside and.
There was something that I needed to explore. And I, I feel like I did try a few different things. I reached out for support and I just wasn’t getting the answers and then COVID hit. So I went back in, in 2020, this is 2020 when I was back in that classroom. And instantly we had the online learning.
So I got to experience working from home. I got to have space and I just went well, this is a very different world. I would never have even tried working at home with teaching. It’s just not possible. And I thought I love working from home. I loved the flexibility. I began coaching my students so that passion of coaching came back in, that I’d put on hold while we were going through everything.
And I began exploring a little bit more. Well, who am I now?
Where do I want to be? I was looking into those big questions I was asking, and I found that I took lots of little steps along the way, became curious about short courses and I found career development and I went, oh, wow. That for me.
It felt like one of those aha moments ,it’s like I could put all everything together and make all those connections.
So I went back and studied while I was still in that job. I had support from a coach through that time and I was able to still do my job and also research how and make that exit strategy. And that plan while I was still in that job. And. I was able to do the tutoring initiative the next year as a part-time role while I was doing study and volunteering in this new industry and then make it that easy transition out once I’d finished my course, I got a job pretty much straight away.
Emily: So it was a slow transition rather than a, a leap out of
Angela Wilson: Yes. Yeah. So for me it was that slow one and. That’s where I’m now. I’m in space of career development and I’ve spoken to lots of teachers and I get to do a few different things within that career space. And it’s amazing that I can now be on a podcast talking to teachers about. Well, is it the right time to leave? What are my options? What else is out there? And that it’s, it’s great that I can be back in here from that perspective of an ex teacher, but also someone who has the career development, training, and knowledge to guide people through.
Emily: Yeah, perfect. And I think along that line, like one of my most popular blog posts that I’ve ever written is actually, it’s a big, long list of jobs that teachers could do if they don’t want to be a teacher anymore. And I think about this all the time. There was one post in a Facebook group that someone had asked, oh, you know, I think teaching’s not quite right for me anymore. I don’t think this is my passion anymore. What else? Like, does anyone have any ideas? What can I do? And so I replied with a link to that article. And in that day alone, it got 700 views. And that just blows my mind that there, that means that there were 700 other teachers in that group that we’re having these same thoughts of, well, maybe, maybe this isn’t for me.
And, uh, just every time I think about it, it still blows my mind. And I feel like a lot of us are sitting here and we kind of might feel a bit trapped because you know, the, the social aspect of this job and the societal aspect and all the duties that are placed on teachers. And we sort of sit here feeling like it’s our duty to teach and care for these kids.
So how can you possibly leave?
Angela Wilson: And that’s bringing up for me that some people feel, and they use the word institutionalized and that we’ve signed this invisible contract that we have to be a teacher. And once we’re in, there’s no other options. And you, you have to just go with the good and the bad. And that, that that’s, that’s our only option.
There’s so many myths out there that we take on as teachers that I, I don’t even know if they’re even spoken about, but we just internally take them on that I’m just a teacher. I can remember catching myself saying that or now I hear other people saying that.
Yeah, I’m just a
Emily: Oh, I’m just a teacher
Angela Wilson: or that, uh, that I only know the classroom.
So that’s where I’m just gonna stay. So that, yeah, I think that for me, brings up that and I find this in other industries as well, that when people attempt to look outside. They feel very low about themselves and that self-esteem because they only know what they know. And so there’s so many ways that we can begin to demystify all those myths out there and look at them as is that really true?
So we do have those ties to that industry yet. There, there is that option to move on and at least be curious and look outside and that it’s okay. And I can remember people saying to me, oh, you’re such a good teacher though. And go, I know I’m such a good teacher. This is just not right for me. And I had to keep coming back to what was right for me.
Emily: Yeah, cuz you could be absolutely fantastic at a job and it doesn’t mean you enjoy it.
Angela Wilson: That’s exactly right, yeah.
Emily: And even if you do enjoy it, it doesn’t mean that that’s where you wanna be forever. And I think that’s maybe something that a lot of teachers get caught in is that you can get very good at the job very quickly
Angela Wilson: Yes.
Emily: it is a stable job and it’s secure once you get permanency, You have all of these kids that rely on you and their families that rely on you and you’re really good at it. So why on earth would you wanna leave?
Angela Wilson: Mm.
Emily: And I think there might even be some generational impacts in that where, you know, for our parents and our grandparents holding onto a stable job was one of the most successful things that you could do for yourself.
Whereas now, within our generations, it’s, I don’t wanna say easier. Maybe it’s more acceptable to have different career paths throughout your life. And if you don’t enjoy one anymore, it’s, it’s okay to go and find another one and to explore other options. And I think that’s something that we need to remember.
Angela Wilson: Yes. And that teaching. Some people do see it as their forever job, but they’re gonna ride this wave and they’re gonna go through that survival mode possibly that they’re in at the moment and that there are teachers still thriving and that we can look outside what that norm is and that we don’t have to just follow that linear path that generations ago have also done as well. That I’ve been talking a lot with young students. So I get to also consult with some year nine students around the beginning of their career journey and that they will possibly have up to 17 different jobs over their lifetime, across five different industries.
And that that’s even changing that the jobs that possibly gonna look at in their high school years, or even dream about are not gonna be even invented. There’s gonna be some career options that aren’t even invented and not even available till they get out. So I think about all the jobs now that we can see around us, we didn’t even know about when we were at high school making our decisions and that there’s so much pressure on those people to think of one thing, and that’s gonna be your forever job. And that’s not the case anymore. That it’s more flexible and adaptable, and we have to move with options, opportunities, and through our experiences, things do change as well.
Emily: Yeah. And on that note too, I just wanna say as well, that it’s perfectly okay if teaching is your forever job, there’s no, like, I feel like some of the conversations that I’m seeing online are sort of you know, some people are feeling like they need to exit teaching and then other people are sitting there thinking, oh, should I be exiting as well?
We’re seeing all these media reports of the mass Exodus and, you know, we’re experiencing that ourselves too with the staff shortages and it kind of plays in the back of your mind that. Well, everyone’s leaving. So why am I staying? So I think this might be a time for some people to reflect on if you’re thinking about leaving, are you actually thinking about leaving or are you just sort of riding the hype train and seeing all these reports and seeing all these conversations and letting that play on your negativities as well, and draw you away from something that you may actually genuinely enjoy.
And it is okay to love teaching and it’s okay to stay. So I think, yeah, that’s just one point I wanna make for people listening. We’re not here to tell you to leave teaching.
Angela Wilson: And I think that’s a great point. Yeah, exactly. Because I’ve found that there’s probably about, I mean, there’s always gonna be lots of different categories, but there’s probably about three different categories I see sort of teachers falling in. That one, they still love their job. They are moving through this time, as best as they can.
They’re really holding on to that love of teaching and looking at this as possibly an opportunity to maybe take on different roles or,
Emily: Reinvigorate in some way.
Angela Wilson: Reinvigorate. Yeah. Yeah. And that part of them that they go, this is, this is the reason why, because I get to help people through the hard times, as well as the good times.
And then there’s also teachers that might be sitting on the fence. Maybe they’re not done with teaching yet. Maybe they’re just a little bit disheartened. They’re feeling the pressure of media of what’s going on around them. And they might be just looking for a new challenge. And they’re wondering, is it inside education? Is it outside education? So there’s some real fence sitters that possibly could just need to have a great conversation with a coach possibly about what that might look like for them now, because things have changed and it changes who we are on the inside.
And then you’ve also got the teachers that are done. That they possibly hate their job. They’re the unhappiness person at work. They’re the loudest. So they would be quite opinionated. They would be the most scared and the most fearful to leave. Maybe they’ve thought about this for a very long time and they just don’t have the, the skills or the tools to actually step out of it and know when enough is enough. And they might be the ones that might be holding on to retirement and it’s hard to be around them. I know, I know that lots of teachers know exactly who I’m talking about and that you can see when people are done. And that they’ve gone a bit too far and that they, they just don’t know what else they can do about it.
They might think it’s too late. That they can’t move on. And they’re the ones really, really stuck.
Emily: Well, what else can I do? Because all I’ve ever done is teach.
So how can teachers help themselves work out whether they are actually done versus, you know, just being teacher tired or maybe needing a short break? How could they differentiate between that and being like, just done?
Angela Wilson: This is a very personal and individual question to be asking and coming up with that answer. So I think of that decision. It’s very unique and individual for every different person based on their circumstances, their situation and what is right for them. And so we have to sometimes I guess, shut out all that external noise because you’re going to get somebody else’s answer.
And when I think about possibly. The, the reasons why people get into jobs or they leave jobs is because media hype, because someone else says that it’s a good idea. That the grass is always greener somewhere else. And that we can have those questions that we don’t answer ourselves. And we don’t spend the time exploring them.
- Know that most teachers go in without a plan B. That they just go, I’m gonna be a teacher and they don’t actually know any other options. They might not have ever thought about their career outside of teaching or not even had these, these feelings of something’s not right. So most people just don’t know about career development and the, the options and the strategies and the tools to actually look into these decisions that we have to make in our careers. It’s gonna be a process to think about, and I’d like to call it a career audit that we get to do. We get to look at the person, we look at your situation. I love that I get to ask questions and, and hear people say things that they might not have told anybody else as well.
Emily: Because there’s a bit of shame around thinking about leaving teaching, actually, I think there’s quite a lot of
Angela Wilson: Yeah. And there’s that guilt as well.
Emily: So you might, be having all these thoughts and go, well, I can’t articulate that to anyone else because then I’m gonna feel that shame because they’re gonna think that I’m nuts for trying to leave.
Angela Wilson: Yes, cuz I that’s the thing I had to keep it to myself for a time, because it is so internal that we are a bit sensitive and we’re thinking about, do I stay? Do I go? And we can get swayed and we can really fall victim to other people’s fears and opinions. They can really stop you from continuing to explore. Who am I now? Where have I been? Where have I come from? What’s changed? Because usually when we do a career audit, our internal values, so our personal values, our professional values have changed from possibly the year before or five years ago. And looking at what’s really important for you now, because values are your blueprint for happiness.
And if we don’t align what we’re doing with our values, we can feel that something’s not right within. We can look at your strengths. Are you using your strengths to the best of your ability every day? And are you that creative person that doesn’t get to create in the way that you need to every day? How can you bring that into your work or, or outside of work?
What are your skills? Most teachers don’t know skills that you’ve actually acquired through teaching. There’s so many that can be utilized. And what skills do you like using? Cause sometimes we have skills, but we might not often like using them. And also your interests, they change over time as well. So maybe you were really interested in being that classroom teacher yet maybe might be more about the science or the arts or, even the, the wellbeing and how can we put that into your everyday life as well? So doing an audit on all these different areas, maybe there’s parts of your job that you don’t like, but what do you like about that and what do you want?
And actually looking into the future. And going through that, do you see yourself being a teacher in a classroom, what does it look slightly different and getting that holistic picture of the person that you are now, who you want to become and beginning to dream as well. Cuz as teachers, sometimes we just get, we get stuck in our day to day waiting for holidays and then we continue and roll on into the next year. But have you spent the time thinking about your career, planning it and looking into all these different areas of yourself? Because as we begin to collect clues from all these different things that we do, it’s amazing how much clarity comes out of each and every different activity that we get to do.
And as teachers to spend that time on yourself, Is something that we often put off. And I know that when I was a teacher and I began to do personal development, I thought, why aren’t other teachers doing this? To learn about yourself is an amazing starting point. And it’s about learning all those facets that you want your students and possibly your children to know about and that we can find that out ourselves. And that gives us our guidance about where we need to go. Am I done? Am I not? You’ll find that out the more that you explore into who you are.
Emily: So it’s a real, real reflective process.
Angela Wilson: Yes,
Emily: And, and you said, you know, sometimes we feel like we can’t take that time as teachers to work on ourselves. And I think it’s, it’s really important that we need to remember that we are people too. It’s not just about our students.
Angela Wilson: For sure. And it comes back to that self management. That self-efficacy. The agency that we put on our students. And it’s about taking that time for yourself. So some people might be thinking I’m done, but yet, do you just need to take a sabbatical and take three, six months off and focus on yourself and rebuild that part of you? And discover is teaching still for me. So some people might be thinking. How can I do that while I’m working? Well, maybe you actually need to take some time off and be creative about that. How can you make that work and that have you got the support of the school that you’re in so that you can take a step back and work on yourself?
Or can you carve out time in your current job? Cuz that’s I know that I spent that year doing little bits over time while still working in my job as well.
Emily: Yeah. And I feel like there’s a bit of pressure. You feel like you can’t let anybody in your workplace know that you might be considering something else because then you’ll get, you know, shunted to the back of the queue. You’ll get the worst classes. If you’re on contract, you won’t get another contract. If they know that you might be looking somewhere else. So I think we sort of put that external pressure onto ourselves as.
Angela Wilson: And that’s the thing being hard on yourself. We need to really sort of manage those thoughts, behaviors, and actions that we have. And that’s why I also get to talk with people about the inner critic in a coach that we have within us, that sometimes we need to strengthen that part of us that just knows us best and that can help us through this time. Because there’s gonna be lots of people externally that alter your decision, but it’s also a lot about within us. So, our limiting beliefs or those myths that we were talking about before and the fears that come up about leaving, and if you talk to the wrong person, they’re going to possibly strengthen that fear that you have about stepping outside or taking time off or asking for maybe I just need to do four days and just have one day to myself.
Yeah, we just need to be really protective and self-manage ourself through this.
Emily: So are teacher skills really transferable? This is a question I see coming up a lot. Like we said before, I’m just a teacher. So can our skills actually be transferred across to a different career option?
Angela Wilson: Once you know your skills. So I just think about the top ones that come to my mind as a teacher, a great problem solver, you manage people, great time management, attention to detail, communication, collaboration, all of these. If you begin to look at job descriptions with a curious eye, you’ll notice that they are needed in so many different industries. So many job descriptions out there. I’ve I’ve even experienced that myself. That as soon as I stepped into a role, I went, oh, wow. That was very easy. That was such a great transition because I’m just utilizing all those things that I was doing in my job every day. And I actually have quite strong skills.
And when you put them into practice, it’s amazing to see, but also, that other industries are looking for all of the skills that we have, and that we can talk about that. Yes, it was possibly within a classroom or within your role yet you can pull from all of those experiences that you’ve had, because that’s where your experience has been and translate that into the language of other industries.
So that was a big thing. Just know. Well, as a teacher, it’s also known as a facilitator, an instructor, a trainer, a coach, a mentor, and that’s how they were using it in other industries. And I, I, as I began to explore, and as other teachers are also doing that, they can see that it is transferable and It’s not until you begin to look into it, that you can see how important those skills that we’ve attained really are in other industries.
Emily: So it’s about looking at it with a, a more of a critical eye and maybe swapping some language around. It’s still the same skill, but it’s just talked about in a different way.
Angela Wilson: Yeah. And there was a teacher recently that was really into that innovation side of things and they were looking at other roles and it was about talking to people and getting that, that view of. What you are talking about is exactly what I did in the classroom with my children. It was with children, just not with adults and that once you know that, and that’s why I get people to do lots of networking and talking to people and finding people in jobs that interest them and having those conversations, because once you find that resonance, ah, it’s exactly what I was doing. It’s just slightly different. And they just, just to know those particular words or ways to describe it, that’s when you can go into an interview, very confident that your skills are transferable and that they are going to be utilized and valued in another industry. Sure.
Emily: So in terms of being able to get those skills transferred across that’s where someone like yourself would come in, you’ve obviously got your own training in how to help teachers to step out of this role. So if there’s anyone listening who wants more clarity on their career options, more clarity on their, their own values. How can they find you? How can they contact you?
Angela Wilson: Sure. Well, my business is called Career Design Studio, so I have a website careerdesignstudio.com.au. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m doubling in all the other social medias out there. And the best way is to go to the website. All LinkedIn, that’s usually the best place to start and I offer free discovery session. So anyone today that’s listening and going. Oh, I really need, I’d love to have a chat with someone that knows what they’re talking about, about careers. That I can offer them that free discovery session to explore their situation and, and begin to uncover a little bit about what their next chapter might look like or where their meaning and purpose is today. I have all that available on my website and that, just to know that I’ve been there as well. Another good thing for people to know that you don’t have to do this alone. Yeah. That I can, I can understand. They can just rattle on about teacher stuff. And I, I just, I understand.
Emily: yeah. I genuinely understand. Not just, like empathizing it’s. Yeah.
All right. Well, thank you so much for your insight and your wisdom today, Angela. I’m sure this is going to resonate with a lot of teachers out there who might be, like you said they might be sitting on the fence or maybe they’ve listened to this whole thing and gone no, actually I I’m my teacher that’s me for now. And that’s okay. Or on the flip side there might be thinking, yeah, no, this is cemented for me that I need explore options. And as you said before, it doesn’t have to be like a leap out of teaching. It can be a slow transition over time.
Angela Wilson: Exactly. And just to know, sometimes that there’s alternatives, options, opportunities can lift that weight off your shoulders.
So, yeah, for sure. So if you wanna explore that, that’s something that we can definitely look into.
Emily: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for your time today.
Angela Wilson: You’re welcome.
Emily: If you’d like to continue the conversation, come and join us over on Facebook in the group called The Teacher Community by Staffroom Stories. And you can also find us on Facebook and Instagram @Staffroomstories. You can also check out the blog at www.Staffroomstories.com for full podcast, episode transcripts, as well as articles about a whole range of other staffroom topics.
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