A love of teaching is rarely a problem for teachers, but burnout can be. Sometimes, even experienced and successful teachers begin to feel the challenges outweigh the rewards, leading to lower levels of satisfaction with the career they once loved.
But while time spent with young people —supporting, inspiring and helping them to achieve—seems like a source of happiness, the hidden key to job satisfaction could be stepping into a role that offers you greater influence. To reinvigorate your love of teaching, it may make sense to advance your own qualifications, and pursue other ways to help students outside the classroom.
Looking to make a real difference? Time to lead
Looking towards leadership positions can help great teachers harness their passion in ways that are more effective and rewarding on a grander scale. Have you ever felt restricted in your ability to contribute to students’ learning outcomes and wellbeing? How about the professional learning culture within your school?
Changing the culture and systems within a school can rarely be achieved without seeking a promotion into roles such as head of faculty, curriculum coordinator or principal. A recent research report from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership about the challenges and rewards of becoming a principal, highlights that principals often report higher rates of job satisfaction than other educators. It’s usually attributed to the positive impact their work can have on students and families: they can see more clearly how they are making a difference. Yes, it does mean more responsibility—but it also means better pay and more say, without diminishing your sense of purpose.
Equip yourself to address educational challenges
The impact of educators matters more than ever. CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research Professor Geoff Masters authored a policy update in May 2016 to outline five challenges in Australian school education. Masters pointed to the fact that many students are falling behind and not meeting minimum standards, in part due to the inequitable distribution of quality leadership and ineffective day-to-day practices.
When schools struggle to recruit and retain effective leaders, student performance tends to suffer. Preparing yourself to move into leadership roles within your own school can support an education environment that gives kids greater continuity and the opportunities they need to succeed. Differences in outcomes between schools is also affected by whole-of-school practices and how they are implemented.
By equipping yourself to become a great leader, you can play a larger role in making highly effective practices the norm: such as improved teacher collaboration, professional development opportunities, behaviour management and monitoring student progress in meaningful ways. Landing a promotion that empowers you to support sector-wide improvements in Australia’s education system, is sure to create a sense of achievement at the end of the work day.
Support and nurture your fellow teachers
Feel exhausted by the extra obligations that often accompany teaching? It may be unclear why striving for a promotion will help, but leadership doesn’t simply equal more paperwork. Advancing your career can be an opportunity to use your experience to help others—which feels great! Being an excellent teacher affects hundreds of students, but being an empathetic coach and mentor to other teachers allows your influence to benefit an even larger audience.
As a school leader or principal, you can often focus more time on improving teaching and learning beyond one classroom, giving others greater confidence and impact. You know first-hand the difficulties of high workloads, reporting and assessment requirements, managing student behaviour and navigating school politics: as a leader you are in a position to do something about this and implement change that enhances productivity.
Research published in the Harvard Business Review about what factors contribute to happiness and motivation at work showed that people experience their ‘best days’ when they make progress in meaningful work—even small wins matter. Pursuing a leadership position means you can generate or champion great ideas that remove roadblocks and make the lives of teachers easier.
New knowledge delivers new energy
Gain the expertise you need to become a school leader and combine it with your experience to help alleviate the stress, confusion and isolation that teachers often face. To be considered for roles such a head of department or principal, you should consider a postgraduate degree such as a Master of Education from the recognised leader in education, Curtin University. High-level qualifications will enrich your critical thinking and inform new perspectives on professional practice. Postgraduate qualifications also show employers that you’ve developed the in-depth knowledge needed to investigate and solve complex educational issues.
With Open Universities Australia (OUA), there’s no need to give up your day job to take on further study. Through OUA, you can enrol in a Master of Education from Curtin University, and study online at any time. Graduates receive exactly the same qualification as on-campus students, but can obtain their Masters from wherever they choose to study. This seven subject degree will build on your professional knowledge and hone your critical and independent thinking skills.
Become a student again and remember why it’s great to be a teacher.