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Illo of a woman looking through a giant telescope

For many educators, spring brings an opportunity to consider taking new positions, changing schools, and exploring other paths in our education system. If these thoughts cross your mind like a wisp of a breeze or relentlessly swirl like a tornado, I encourage you to follow your curiosity.

Is there something pushing you out of your current role or pulling you toward another one? Pursue the exploration! I hope these ten tips will help you consider when it's time to change jobs and what you might consider.

1. Identify what you want, starting with how you want to feel in a new job.

You might want to feel fulfilled, appreciated, and purposeful. You might want to feel connected to others, aligned to a vision, or simply more relaxed. Spend some time just meditating over the emotional experience that you crave in a different job.

2. Identify your core values.

Reflect on what it would look like for you to be living from these core values. What would you be doing every day? What kind of school would allow your work to align with your core values? (At this point, as well as at almost every point in this process, taking a walk can really help! Walk by yourself without listening to anything, and just let your musings over a new job marinate.)

3. Identify any "musts" and "can'ts" in a new position.

For example, maybe you can't work in a school in which student data is posted in a public place, or you can't work in a school that requires you to teach a scripted curriculum. Maybe on the must list is time for regular collaboration with colleagues or a principal who has high emotional intelligence or the freedom to create curriculum.

4. Brainstorm all possible positions or contexts in which you might consider working.

Maybe you'd consider teaching fourth through sixth grade, or seventh or eighth grade history, or maybe even twelfth grade literature. Even if you don't have the credential or background, allow yourself to brainstorm all possibilities. Maybe you've been apprehensive about charter networks, but perhaps you'd consider a position in an independent charter school. Just brainstorm. Maybe you'd consider part-time teaching, or a coaching or dean position. Brainstorm all options and write them down.

5. Imagine your ideal task ratio during a day, week, or month.

For example, maybe you want to teach a core subject 60 percent of the time, teach advisory 10 percent of time, spend 10 percent in professional development, 10 percent in collaboration or a PLC, and 10 percent planning. Don't let the voices in your head tell you why this can't happen or that there's no school where this is the case. Just imagine. Create a pie chart, draw what you want, or find some way to get it down on paper.

6. Reflect on anything that has been holding you back from changing jobs, schools, or roles.

What or who has kept you in the job you've been in? What's made you afraid of leaving it? What's held you back from seeking another position? Just getting clear on these questions will help you make a decision going forward. Make sure to identify where fear has played a role -- and remember that fear often masks itself as insecurity.

7. Now go forth and look!

Look everywhere that jobs are posted, talk to as many people as you can about what you might be interested in and ask lots of questions. If there's a school where you might want to work, go and visit. Talk to the principal. If there's a position in the central offices that you are curious about, find someone to talk to. If you have a brilliant idea for a position that doesn't exist but which might serve children, propose it to someone who might be able to help.

Don't be shy or insecure. Don't worry that you aren't qualified for whatever it is. Go out and look. I recognize that this is tricky to do given that you might not be ready to let your current supervisor or principal know that you want to leave, so you might have to stealthily look and ask questions. Of course, in the meantime, polish up your resume.

8. If you're really curious about a position, explore it thoroughly.

If it's a teaching position, visit the school during the day, sit in on a staff meeting or PD session, talk to as many people as possible. If you're considering a position as a coach, for example, find other coaches near and far and ask: "What do you like about your job? What's hard about it? What advice do you have for me if I'm considering a coaching job?"

9. Don't take a job from fear.

Don't accept an offer because you're afraid that you won't find anything else, or because you worry that you'll offend someone if you don't accept. Actually, don't do anything if your motivation is fear-based.

10. A new position can be wonderful and liberating.

It can bring all those good feelings you want to experience -- and you'll most likely experience a learning curve. It might be hard at first. You might even have doubts about whether you made the right choice. But you might also appreciate yourself for having taken a risk. And you might soon find that you are much happier, more fulfilled, and better able to contribute to the learning and experience of young people in your new job.

One thing I've seen too much of in our schools is good people stuck for way too long in positions in which they can't give what they want to give. There is life outside of and beyond whatever unsatisfying or semi-satisfying position you're currently in.

I hope these suggestions might help you find a position in which you can offer your best. Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments section below.

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Elizabeth Rubenstein's picture
Elizabeth Rubenstein
Art, Design and Creativity Teacher in the Bay Area, CA

I created the job title I would like to have and am putting that on the top of my resume.

Susan J's picture

This is so timely! Thank you for the ideas. I've been stuck trying to figure out how to make a move. The time is definitely now!

Ms.Corke's picture

Envisioning possibilities instead of being limited by what is advertised... Inspiring advice.

T. Knighton's picture

Wow, I so needed this! Your tips are spot on and I'm excited to continue on my journey towards something new.

Farah Najam's picture
Farah Najam
Teacher Trainer and write on education

If you are thinking about entering the teaching profession, you need to understand that it has changed considerably over the years. Rote memorization from textbooks is no longer popular. Nowadays teachers tend to use props and help coach children into learning new concepts through application.

CAKosmo's picture

This is great advice. Thanks for posting. I am actually retired, but I transitioned from my full time teaching position to another adventure. I now give tours of Fenway Park. It allows me to be involved in one of my passions, my love of baseball, and I get to use lots of my teaching skills. Whenever you make a career move it is so important to plan and really ask yourself what direction you want to go in and how can you get there.

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