You contemplated a move and updated that curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter. You’ve reevaluated your philosophy on education. You’ve bought that ticket, attended the job fair, interviewed at a few booths, and now, you’re on the verge of making a decision to either stay or leave your current position/post. For many, it is assumed that if you do all of these steps, then surely you have thought through this process, made the necessary life adjustments, and are ready to sign on the dotted line. However, I would venture to say it is indeed an assumption. Here’s another thought, what if the “move” is not external but rather an internal move within your current school community? What does mental preparation look like in such instances?
What Is Necessary/Essential? The Happiness Factor
Happiness ought to be at the center of any career decision or move one makes. But for many of us, it could look, sound, and feel different, depending on the reality of our current work circumstances. When you look at our environment, does it appear to be aligned with where you envision your school should be? No school is perfect but when the school /work culture starts to drastically clash with why you went into education initially, it might be worth further examination. Some misalignments can be realigned through clarifications and cost benefits. But in case they aren’t, consider, is what I currently see, hear, and feel on a regular basis in stark contrast to what I envision education should look, sound, and feel like?
Reaching Your Limit
Have you done all you can in the space you currently exist in? Ideally, opportunities are afforded to us in preparation for our next roles or pathways in our careers. Perhaps you earned an opportunity to move from a teaching position to a team lead or dean position. Or maybe you are an aspiring administrator and have been supported with the relevant professional development to make you more successful when the time comes to cross over into administration. It could also be that you are an administrator but are looking to work in a different global context. Or perhaps as an experienced administrator, you may crave new responsibilities to better prepare you for your next leadership role. Regardless of where you “sit” on the career spectrum, consider the following questions:
1) Am I getting the proper mentorship needed to support me in my next role? If not, what are the hindrances and how can I move beyond them? Sometimes this alone may be a cause to look for new opportunities.
2) Have I “outgrown” or “outlived” my experiences at my current school or in my current role? When you have navigated (mostly with success) all scenarios possible that relate to your position and in some cases, beyond, perhaps, it is time for a change.
3) What other areas or roles am I seemingly gravitating towards that could lead to a new pathway? In my current role as assistant principal and having spoken to countless assistant principals, it is clear that this role in particular can be considered a “gateway” to other types of leadership paths and that one pathway cannot always be assumed.
For example, in my case, the more traditional frame of thought may be, if you’re an assistant principal then the next natural step might be to become a principal. But, why? Some assistant principals are drawn to curriculum development, some to teacher trainer opportunities, others to student support services, technology integration, of course, principalships, and beyond. Can assistant principal roles in and of themselves be roles of transition? How do you view the current role you hold?
Before you sign…
Family Above All
Whether you are single with community/family ties, a dating couple, or married, the factor of family and close relationships often plays a key role in determining if the move to a new school and/or community can be viewed as a challenge with irreparable deal breakers or a force forward. I tend to believe timing is everything, but it is also possible to miss opportunities because we are waiting for “the perfect time.” I am guilty and have fallen prey to that way of thinking! When is the best time and what are the cost benefits of a move both professionally and personally? Here are some things to consider before you sign your next contract.
1. Does the move benefit my family more than it would pose a negative impact (i.e., cost-benefit)? If you have children, are you moving them at the age of 3, 8, or 15? Developmentally, although most kids are more resilient than adults when it comes to change, they are impacted differently by such a change in environment and can react accordingly based on age. They are also looking at the resiliency of the parent/guardian. A mentor once cautioned me, “younger is always better when making such moves,” as to allow for slightly easier transitions both in and outside of the classroom. If applicable, know thy child.
2. What will the work status of your partner look like? Will they be happy being what many of us call “the traveling spouse” or do they feel the urge and desire to work or continue in their own career paths? The pressures that may ensue should your spouse decide not to work is also something to consider. Or perhaps, it is a relief for your spouse not to work if you have an infant and childcare is an expense you cannot yet take on. And what about the work visa? Considering regions, countries, and tax laws as it relates to earning money not just for you, but for your spouse, should also be discussed at length, perhaps before even applying to new positions overseas.
And…What if It Doesn’t Work Out?
That timeless adage of “you can’t go home again” couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it is your first overseas job as an educator or your 10th international job circuit, you can indeed return home. Most do not, but many do. Just having the comfort of recognizing one always has options is enough to take the plunge. There is never really a perfect time to go [overseas]. There will always be a reason we can find to remain where we are at. But then, what are we willing to give up in return?
Read more about recruitment and hiring practices in Getting Our House in Order: Creating an Effective Hiring Environment, A Seat at the Table: Who’s Invited to the (Hiring) Party?, and A Recruiter's Interview Toolbox.
Kenya J. Washington currently holds a position as assistant principal in the upper school at the United Nations International School, NY, USA. Her background is steeped in student support services, mental health, and learning support, secondary through university. She possesses over 15 years of secondary school experience in international education in the areas of administration and leadership and promoting best practices for educators to support all learners.