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What can career change for teachers look like?

Aspiring teachers are often driven by a noble sense of purpose. They dream of inspiring young people, building fulfilling relationships and setting the next generation up for success. ‘One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world,’ according to education activist Malala Yousafzai. It’s a big responsibility.

So why are 1 in 3 teachers leaving the profession within their first five years?

More than 60% of early career teachers do not feel they have a good work-life balance, according to research by Everymind, formerly the Hunter Institute of Mental Health. Despite the perceived perks as extended holidays and shorter workdays, teachers say they struggle with time management, managing parent-teacher relationships and not having enough time for collaboration, planning, preparation and assessment time.

This is not to say teachers don’t love their jobs. Many do. The rewards that come from seeing a student have a ‘lightbulb moment’, the positive peer support and inclusive school cultures lead many to have long and fulfilling careers in teaching.

But if you’ve been teaching for a while, and wonder if you might be better suited elsewhere, you might be unsure of what career change for teachers could look like.

Take inspiration from Daniel Hunt, a graduate of Deakin’s Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary) and former primary school teacher who founded Linked Incursions, which sends qualified teachers into schools throughout Victoria to provide educational programs that are interactive and engaging. In this interview, Daniel describes his career change as a ‘side-step’ – he’s still using his teaching skills and doing what he loves, educating students.

Why did you decide to make a career change out of teaching?

‘I haven’t so much switched career, really I’ve side-stepped. I saw an opportunity to support teachers and schools in teaching the tricky parts of the curriculum in interesting ways. There are lots of parts of being a teacher that I loved, but the parts that always interested me the most were around designing lessons and experiences for students to get to grips with the curriculum content.

‘It’s such a crowded curriculum and, as a teacher, you can’t always know everything, and you don’t necessarily have the time or the resources to create a learning experience in the way that will best engage your students. I felt using my strengths in planning and designing incursions could be something I would really enjoy and would really help schools.’

What other jobs for teachers did you see were available to you?

‘Initially I was looking at moving into some sort of curriculum design role. Perhaps working with museums, organisations, or businesses and creating programs for schools to help them teach content in their classroom. I don’t think I looked too far out of the profession as I knew I still wanted to be involved in education in some way.’

How did you decide what to do next?

‘I don’t think I realised how much work would be involved in setting up a business! I was quite naïve when it came to that and I think that was a good thing as I just took things as they came. I set about designing the programs and building all the resources. I looked at the curriculum content and I imagined what the best ever 90-minute lesson to teach this content would look like. I then designed that program.’

'I felt using my strengths in planning and designing incursions could be something I would really enjoy and would really help schools.'

Daniel Hunt,
Linked Incursions

What were the most difficult parts of the decision to quit teaching?

‘Leaving school was difficult. I knew I would miss having a supportive team to work with. I also knew I would miss the students. Being with a group of kids over a year and seeing them grow and develop was one of the most satisfying parts of the job. It was also a difficult decision financially. The first year I started the business was a huge pay cut. Luckily I have a very supportive wife and family who helped with the transition.’

How does running your business suit you better than being a classroom teacher?

‘I get to teach, teach teach. I love teaching and that’s what I get to do now every day! Being a classroom teacher, there are parts of the job that are not teaching. A lot of admin, paperwork and meetings. I still have a bit of admin, since I am running the business, but I mainly just teach. My staff love the fact that they are free from yard duties, staff meetings and reports too!

‘What’s more, because we are only in each classroom for a few hours, we get to see the students at their best. We bring in costumes, props, and puzzles. Students participate in role-plays and interactive activities. What we do is interactive and exciting – and it’s rewarding to see the students learning so much because they’re having fun.

‘My staff and I especially love the work-life balance the job brings us as we can often be finishing our days well before 3:30.’

What’s your advice to teachers seeking a career change?

‘Consider other jobs in education first. I think a lot of teachers who decide to move on from teaching don’t look around to see whether other similar jobs might be available. My staff are all former classroom teachers who, like me, have only side-stepped. We still get to do what we love in classrooms teaching students, but our job is slightly different to the typical teaching job. It’s always worth seeing what’s out there.

‘If you’re looking to change careers entirely, stop and think about your skills. I think teachers don’t often recognise that the skills they have as a classroom teacher are transferable to other professions.

‘We’re excellent managers – in fact we have 25 little people we manage every single day. We’re excellent communicators because we have to ensure our students learn. We’re used to having multiple stakeholders – our team, parents, students. We’re fantastic at time management. We’re highly organised, yet also flexible and adaptable to different situations – we always make sure we have a plan for how lessons are going to go, but things don’t always go according to plan and we have to think on the fly.

‘There are lots of careers, not just in education, that require the skills that teachers have.’

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