Overcoming Fear and Embracing possibilities

Failure is definitely an option!

When teachers Google “How do I get out of teaching,” or “What can I do if I quit teaching” up pops a whole lot of information about what possible jobs they might do instead…but not knowing what to do next is not what is stopping them from leaving.

Plan your strategy

The key to conquering the indecision is to prepare for, and plan, your exit strategy. It doesn’t have to be instantaneous. While some teachers do leave because of a traumatic event, or sudden onset of illness, it’s so much easier and less stressful to have a plan in place before it comes to that. Often the signals that it’s time to leave are evident long before you take action, and not everyone takes an abrupt leap of faith. Most teachers who leave the profession ease themselves out gently, picking up a side hustle, or transitioning to casual teaching before leaving completely.

Facets of Life

The first step is to picture the life you want. When I was still teaching, I had all of my keys on the one keyring…home, car, school. That way I couldn’t get far without the right key. It showed me that every aspect of my life was linked. So, when you are planning your exit, you need to think about more than just work.

Look at all the facets of your life.

I had a conversation with a young mid-career teacher from the U.S yesterday. (Let’s call her Anna). Like every teacher, she wants to make a difference in the lives of children, but she’s keen to find a way to do that outside of the classroom. Anna wants to help students unpack complex mathematical ideas and make them simple and understandable, then go beyond that and talk about the big issues: mental health, depression and suicide.

Transferable Skills

Anna had spent the previous week updating her resume and converting the language of Education to corporate language, unpacking the skills that she uses as a teacher and taking out the references to school, so that the skill set, rather than the context is the focus. Still, she was a bit disappointed in herself because she had seen a job she liked the sound of but it was based overseas in a third-world country. It felt like too much of a wrench to move overseas, so she didn’t apply. We talked about that for a while and concluded that if she applied and didn’t get it, it would still be a great opportunity to talk to the company she was applying to. In fact, we were able to reframe it as a low-risk opportunity to apply for something she was interested in, but wouldn’t be too disappointed about, if it didn’t work out.

Anna is inspired by organisations like Sesame Workshop who are working to help children deal with complex family issues and taboo subjects like suicide. As she has a unique way of planning and delivering that learning, she’s really excited about the possibilities for the future. She’s decided that rather than rushing into the next thing, she’s going to take her time, create an online presence and begin creating some content for YouTube. She will evolve and improve that and eventually she’ll be able to leave her teaching job and strike out on her own.

If we recognise that “this is scary” is but one of the possible stories we can tell ourselves, we can go a long way towards working on a plan.

As Anna ventures into the unknown, she experiences fear around the chance that it all might fail. That’s normal. But it won’t help you to achieve your goals. Working on a plan, one small action at a time can be the most effective solution to overcoming the fear of failure. If you have a list of actions that align with your values, priorities and hopes for the future and you stay on the path, at the very least, you’ll be too busy to be afraid.

Imagine a wooden boat, or a ship. There’s a lengthwise band of timber running along the base of a ship, the keel, supporting the framework of the whole, and providing a kind of giant compass to align the vessel in the direction it needs to go. The rudder is for making the small incremental changes and adjustments.

Setting the direction is the main thing you need to do.

If your plan is directionally correct, you can always make those small changes to your actions that will get you to your exact destination.

Make an action plan

Anna and I left our conversation with a “to-do” list that included setting up her YouTube account and notifying her students about it, so that they can subscribe before they all break for the summer. She was grateful for the chance to explore some ideas and the encouragement to take some low-risk actions that will see her moving in the right direction. I’m excited to see what comes next.

Fear is the thing that holds teachers back. Fear of the unknown, fear of the depths of indecision, lack of resources, lack of strength and of not knowing the next step to take. I get it…I felt the same thing. So, take a look at the possibilities and reframe fear of failure as an opportunity to take a risk. Go into the new situation with the attitude that you are PREPARED to fail, in order to have a trial run at something, or to make some new connections, then suddenly, the world is your oyster!

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash