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How can teachers further personalise their career development?

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Most people become teachers because they want to work with young people and make a difference. But, while educators love to see their pupils succeed and flourish, their own career paths also require care and attention. Fortunately, the opportunities for career progression as a teacher are plentiful. And there is more than one route to success.

So, how can teachers personalise their own unique career development paths?

Consider what they want to achieve

Many newly qualified teachers are keen to become educational leaders. But professional development isn’t just about progressing ‘up’ the perceived ladder – it’s whatever you make of it.

“People entering and moving through the teaching profession should be able to identify and pursue clearer career pathways that meet their interests and expertise. This will of course continue to include traditional leadership routes, but it must also include the ability to develop in the specialisms and professional knowledge that flow directly from the core areas of practice covered by the ECF {Early Career Framework}.”

– Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, DfE

If you want to become part of the SMT, there are certainly ways to do this. School leaders are younger than ever before, with many joining schools as part of the Fast Track programme. And, moving out of the classroom and becoming a head teacher is an incredibly rewarding experience (not to mention a high-profile career move).

But for some teachers, taking on a leadership role simply does not appeal. Often because it takes them away from the very things that got them interested in teaching in the first place. So, when planning a career development path, it makes sense to consider all the options.

For example, rather than a leadership role, some educators prefer to become a champion of a chosen subject (or a group of subjects, such as STEM). Alternatively, becoming an IT champion provides a fast-track route to success for educators. Both these routes can be hugely satisfying for people who want to make a difference to the lives of their pupils and improve their schools, all while boosting their careers. And, of course, becoming a digital trailblazer presents an opportunity for any passionate teacher who wants to move up into a senior management role and help shape their school’s future culture.

Try setting short-term goals

When planning a career path, reaching that final objective can feel daunting and overwhelming. This is true for most professions, including early-career teachers. But, rather than looking at the final destination, NQTs might find it easier to set short-term goals to begin with. Such a step-by-step approach can make targets more realistic and achievable.

What’s more, plans and general ambitions as a teacher can change over time. And, having taking smaller steps can make it easier to deviate off-course without feeling like a failure. Indeed, having long-term goals might lead to discouragement if an educator encounters obstacles – or their circumstances change for whatever reason(s). 

Identify and overcome any barriers

While attracting women into teaching has never been a problem, many female teachers believe that the glass ceiling is preventing them from advancing their careers. Family commitments, a lack of confidence and old-fashioned sexist attitudes are just some of the factors preventing women from moving into headship positions.

One of the best ways to break the glass ceiling (while the sector as a whole looks at how to combat wider attitudes and barriers) is for teachers to seek out opportunities that will help them to boost their confidence. This could include asking for and undertaking training and development opportunities.

Seek support from your head teacher and/or SMT

The government has pledged to “work with headteachers to create a clear and supportive system that allows them to provide a positive school culture to attract, retain and nurture their staff” (Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, DfE). But it’s hard for schools to deliver the support needed if they don’t know what individual teachers want to achieve. 

To get the necessary assistance, teachers must make sure that educational leaders know that they want to progress, what their areas of interest are, and what they want to achieve.  But more than this, according to the Department for Education, “Many teachers leave or choose not to return to teaching because they cannot access part-time or other flexible working opportunities” (Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, DfE). So, teachers should also speak up if they are struggling with full-time work and want to explore other options. 

To find out how educators are using technology to enhance the teaching experience and forge their own career paths, download The State of Technology in Education Report 2018/19.

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