If you are planning to leave the classroom - you are not alone.
In the USA 16% of the teaching workforce leave the classroom each year - a loss of 1 million teachers annually . In Australia, 40% of new graduates into the profession will leave in the first 5 years .
This post explains how to resign from your teaching job, what you need to include in your teacher resignation letter - and answers the biggest questions you will have at this emotional time.
Because it is important to start at the beginning ..
Why Do You Want to Resign?
Numerous research studies confirm the biggest reasons teachers leave their jobs as: out of control workload pressures, working conditions, changes in the way the job is expected to be done, and low salaries for doing it.
Whatever your reasons for leaving, it is helpful to be clear in your own mind as you go through the process.
You might be moving on to another job in education, or have an opportunity elsewhere that you are looking forward to pursuing. These positively motivated moves are comparatively easy to manage.
But leaving the classroom for many people is considerably more difficult. Teaching in a modern classroom demands so much from us - and leaving can be surprisingly hard - even when your motivations for doing so are strong.
Understanding your own reasons why, will help you manage your feelings .. and avoid a period of depression or recovery which many teachers experience when they leave their jobs.
So take a few moments to consider the positive reasons you want to leave, and the more difficult negatives too. Getting clear about your reasons will help you navigate the process more easily.
What is Your Notice Period?
Most teaching contracts will specify a required notice period you have to give, to resign from, and then leave, your job.
This notice period will be written into the contract you signed when starting your job. Increasingly teachers are employed on non-standard contracts - so check you own situation carefully.
It might be that the standard notice period for teachers (UK example here) doesn't apply to you. Request this information from administrators or your HR department.
While it is excellent advice to adhere to the notice period required of you - and give the school adequate time to replace you - these notice periods are often not legally binding.
If you want to leave outside of the notice period required of you, the administrators or board of governors in charge of your school, might be receptive to a request to do so.
This has recently happened with a good friend whose school has just been privatised. The new board of governors were moving older (more expensive) staff on by any means necessary - and when she decided to resign a few days late, they were very happy to grant the request.
How to Resign From Your Teaching Job
Resignation is a formal process and you should resign in writing.
This protects you, as your wishes are difficult to misunderstand - and also means your intention to resign can't be ignored.
While an eMailed resignation letter will often effectively start this process - it is advisable to hand in a physical resignation letter to your principal or head teacher instead.
Doing so will mean that you can be sure that the recipient has received and opened your letter, and that you have adhered to any notice period requirements.
What to Include in my Teacher Resignation Letter?
All you have to say in your resignation letter is your name and the notice you give to leave your current position.
Your letter should include:
- Your full name and current position
- The last date you will work
- Your final day in payroll
Including both your last working day, and the last day you will be paid - makes the date and conditions under which you are leaving extremely clear.
This is important as these two dates aren't always the same, and you don't want your salary to be unexpectedly withheld because of any misunderstandings.
Personally signing your resignation letter and confirming it’s receipt with the recipient are also good practice.
There is no obligation to explain your reasons for leaving the job at all, and in fact there is often nothing to be gained from doing so.
Having said that ...
Your Resignation Letter is Not Just for Your Employer - it is Also for You
If you are moving onto something else, and the break between you and your current employers is an amicable one .. your teacher resignation letter is significantly easier to write.
If, however, you feel aggrieved or are leaving for a specific reason - it can be useful for your own peace of mind - to state this.
Think carefully about doing this however.
You need to balance your need to explain your reasons with your best interests going forward - as there is little point in annoying your soon-to-be former employer unnecessarily.
When I resigned, I wanted to give my opinion about the direction the school was going in - and my belief that the needs of the students would be better served with a different approach.
I added a positively phrased sentence - in between thanking the school for the opportunity of working there - to communicate this.
Doing so helped me leave knowing I had said what I thought - I found this helped me emotionally.
Just bear in mind that your future reference could be affected by your behaviour as you leave.
Where Will Your Reference Come From?
Future employers may write to the school you are resigning from, requesting references - and this is something to factor into how you decide to leave your school.
If the person receiving your teacher resignation letter is going to be writing your reference, it is advisable to leave on good terms.
Doing this gives them a better chance of remembering the positive aspects of your employment.
Employees move to other jobs every day. The fact that you are leaving won't ultimately be a problem .. the WAY you leave might be.
It's also important to realise that who you put on a Resume or CV as a personal reference is up to you.
Often job references these days are purely factual, confirming little more than the dates you were employed, your position and perhaps your reason for leaving.
A personal referee will be able to describe your character and qualities in a way that an official job reference won't.
So choose someone in your school with whom you have had a good relationship - a past principal or head teacher for example - who can vouch for the work you did with them.
This doesn't have to be the current principal or head teacher.
Informing Parents / Students you are Leaving
I found telling my students to be the much most difficult part of leaving my teaching job.
Tell them too soon and you risk causing problems in the classroom, and getting disapproving glances from management. Tell them too late and you don't have time to say goodbye properly.
It is worth asking your Principal or Head Teacher what they recommend, as their concern will be to smooth the transition and provide the consistency students need to progress in their learning.
When leaving my previous job suddenly - I asked my Head Teacher if it would be okay to come back on a Monday morning in a few days to say goodbye properly to my class.
This was an emotional experience for us all, but it was the right thing to do - and gave me the chance to explain how I felt to students - some of whom were upset and angry at my decision to leave.
If you write to parents, it is important to be positive about doing so.
Parents will be immediately concerned at the change their child will have to deal with in the classroom, and any reassurance you can give them about your replacement will be welcomed.
It is also advisable to show what you intend to send parents to the school principal or head teacher, prior to sending it.
What you write could effect the schools reputation with parents.
Requesting an Exit Interview
Your school might request - or give you the chance to request - an exit interview to discuss why you want to leave.
This can be an opportunity to share your reasons for leaving, and good employers take on board what employees say at these meetings.
You do not have to attend an exit interview, if one is requested.
Managing Your Last Day in School
Make sure all the work you are contracted to do is done .. and you have said goodbye to staff who you have worked with.
Say your last goodbyes to the students .. remembering that your influence on them, and possibly the moment you say goodbye - is likely to be remembered for years into the future.
Ensure that your classroom is left clean and tidy and that you have picked up your things - this includes any items on the computer network that you want to save and take with you.
One school employer I left a few years ago, disconnected me from the school network and eMail system the moment I walked out of the door .. although my most recent school employer was a good deal more trusting.
Hand in your keys and security badge - and make sure the person who takes any equipment you are handing back can see they are in good condition (and signs something to prove it).
Your school might have a policy and process to manage doing this - so ensure you adhere to the procedure expected of you.
Q. Can I Change My Mind?
Once your resignation has been received by the school, it is final - unless they decide otherwise.
For this reason, often the principal or head teacher will call a meeting to discuss the letter - and to confirm that this decision is final.
Often employers understand that resigning from a teaching job is an emotional decision, and will give you the chance to ‘cool off’ and reflect before acting on the letter you have handed in.
Don’t see this as anything other than an extremely respectful way to deal with the situation.
Resignation is YOUR decision, but a caring employer will make sure that you are not making a decision you later regret.
Q. Does my Employer Have to ‘Accept’ my Resignation?
The decision to resign is yours alone, you do not need to have your resignation accepted by your employer.
It is advisable to confirm receipt of your resignation letter and that the principal or head teacher in your school understands what your last day at work (and on payroll) will be.
But they cannot reject your teacher resignation letter.
Q. What happens if i'm Long Term Sick or Absent?
If you are absent from school when you resign, your resignation should be dealt with the same way be your employer.
The only other thing to consider is the sickness and absence policy and where you might be in any formal process under this.
Check the policies and procedures at your employer carefully - and gain union advice too.
Giving your notice to resign from your job will not pause the absence process in many schools, and you may still be required to jump through the absence policy hoops.
If you are suffering health problems in your job, you will find the Burnout self assessment tool I created helpful. This assesses your mental health and then offers a report tailored to your situation - which will help you.
I have also created a Stress Workshop which you can sign up for here.
Whatever your reasons for leaving your current job, good luck in the future.
It is likely that your students will remember you fondly - and that they have benefited greatly from your role in their development.
If you are wondering what to do next, this report might help:
PDF: 373 Alternative Job Ideas for Teachers
- Discover just how employable you really are!
- Reveals the jobs best suited to your role, and existing experience level
- 373 ideas and inspirations for teachers seeking a fresh challenge