9 Things to Think About Before You Switch Teaching Positions

As we move into spring, there are a lot of things on the minds of art teachers: upcoming art shows, ordering for next year, reorganization, and looming report cards. Perhaps none weigh more heavily on the mind, however, than the possibility of a new teaching position. It can be exciting to pursue a new position, but it can also bring about some apprehension and anxiety.

Ask yourself what you want in a new job, and whether it will be worth it to make the switch.

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Some people know they need to get out of their situation as soon as possible. It may be the environment, the culture, the administration, the commute, or any of a million other things demanding you look for something new. For others, it may be the possibility of something you’ve had your eye on for a while–an elementary teacher moving up to a high school job that is finally open, for example. Those are the times where you know you have to pursue a new position with everything you have.

But other situations aren’t so cut and dried; some teachers may be unsure about switching to something new. You may not want to leave your classroom, your students, or your colleagues. Maybe you’re just feeling restless, or feeling like you just need to make a change. If you’re on the fence about whether you want to pursue a new teaching position, here are 9 things you should ask yourself as you move through the decision-making process:

1. How Big Is My Comfort Zone?

No matter how much you prepare, or how ready you think you are, a new position will undoubtedly be a big change. The school, the staff, and the students are all different. You will consistently negotiate new situations and encounter new people. Some people thrive in those situations, others have difficulty. Think about how ready you are to step outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.

2. Am I Ready for All of These New Situations?

Along with those new situations and new people, it stands to reason that you’re going to encounter some unfamiliarity on a day-to-day basis. What if I take someone’s seat in the lounge? Or their parking space? Which bathroom do staff members usually use?
There’s so much to think about, and being the new kid on the block, you need to know if you are prepared to re-learn all of the daily ins and outs of teaching at the new school.

3. What About The People I Work With?

It can be tough to give up the relationships, the camaraderie, and the sense of belonging you have established in your current job. Yes, you can keep in touch if you leave, but those relationships will not be the same as if you were still seeing those people every day.

4. How Adventurous Am I?

A new position can be an incredible new adventure. You get the opportunity to learn about a new place, talk with new people every day, and influence new, impressionable young minds. For someone who loves change, exploration, and adventure, there are few things better than a new teaching job.

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5. Am I Ready to Follow the Last Teacher?

Part of that new situation is replacing the teacher that came before you. If you are replacing an old curmudgeon who should have retired years ago, your presence will likely be a breath of fresh air. If you are replacing a beloved teacher or one that may have left unexpectedly, the transition may be a little more difficult. It’s worth considering the shoes you will be filling.

6. Can I Deal With Losing My Seniority?

No matter how much experience you have, you will be the new kid on the block. Some districts will only give you credit for so many years of experience, and it can actually force you to take a pay cut when you switch to a new district. In addition, if you are a department chair, or have a leadership position in your school, that likely will not be waiting for you in a new position. Are you okay without it?

7. What is Causing My Stress?

Could it be the indifferent or unsupportive administration? The behavior of the kids in your school? The 90-minute round trip commute every single day? If you can pinpoint the biggest stressors in your current situation and find a new job that alleviates those problems, you will be much better off. A new start could do wonders for you.

8. Can I Dot My I’s and Cross My T’s?

Along with salary concerns, you need to think about retirement accounts, teaching licensure, pension, benefits, and all of the specific salary and benefit changes that will come. That isn’t always a strength of art teachers (so get help if you need it), but you need to look at all of the numbers before you act. Can you or your family handle you making less money? What if your health insurance changes? Go over everything now,so there are no surprises.

9. What is My Mindset?

Of course, you want to approach the idea of a new position with a growth mindset–embrace the challenge and give yourself the opportunity to get better! You will need that mindset to set yourself up for success because you will be in a new environment with new people, new students, and new expectations. Being ready for change is key when you are moving into something new, and your mindset as you go in is incredibly important.

As you consider taking a new position, there are, of course, the big concerns. But don’t overlook the smaller things as well. While these may seem trivial now, the small things can quickly add up. If you’re on the fence about what you really want to do, ask yourself these questions before you make the decision to switch positions.

What other things should teachers think about before they take a new job?

What has surprised you after taking a new position?

Timothy Bogatz

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.

Related

  • I have a very close friend who is on the fence now – all the things stated above are true – not to mention the relationships you have built with the STUDENTS – probably the biggest thing he’ll miss if he leaves :( Great article – thanks!

  • Melissa Woodland

    If moving out of district, pay attention to their history. Most board meeting agendas are public record and easily accessed. Do they rehire art teachers or let the positions go to attrition? Do their teachers regularly strike? Online articles (and public commentary) are a great slice of life indicator of what you’re walking into.

  • Eva

    Ageism may be illegal but it is rarely possible to prove. People in many careers have great difficulty being hired once they’re in their later 40s and definitely in their 50s. Teaching is one of those careers, particularly in the public sector where districts must follow a step system basing salary on years of experience and degrees earned. (Good private schools can be equally tough in that regard.) Sure, you should be recognized and paid for those things, but realize they can decidedly count against you in the hiring process. (And of course you will never be told it is because of your age and/or experience level that you weren’t chosen.) Why pay many thousands (even tens of thousands) more for a new art teacher when you can hire someone really good with a bachelors degree and few years of experience for so much less? If you’re much older than your 30s be aware that you just might be better off staying put if you want to keep your career or have a decent paying job in a public school. If you feel comfortable with that risk, realize you just might have a very long slog of a job search ahead of you improved slightly by a willingness to relocate — including to an international school where you will find many an older teacher who had to make that move to stay in a teaching job.

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