If you’ve just been offered a new teaching or administrative job, you have plenty of things on your mind. After the initial celebratory excitement, you’ll likely have questions you need answered, potential housing or salary considerations, and dreams and plans to concoct for your new classroom.
One thing you might not be thinking about—but you should—is how to break the news to your current administration. This can be a nerve-wracking conversation, no matter how transparent you’ve been in your intentions. Here’s what to do.
If you’re inclined to be nervous, calm down. You’re not doing anything wrong by changing positions—when you agree to work at one school, you’re not signing a contract for life. Faculty coming and going is a natural and necessary part of a school’s history—your administration will understand.
Hopefully, you’ve also kept them apprised of your job search. Ideally, you would have let your administration know that you were looking for a new position earlier in the year. That way, there will be no surprises—and the administration at your current school may even have found your replacement already. If they know you’re looking for a position that’s better suited to your current interests and goals, they’ll likely be happy for you upon hearing you’ve found one.
If they didn’t know you were searching…
If you haven’t yet let your administration know you were searching—for whatever reason—breaking the news becomes a bit trickier. While we do not advise searching confidentially for a prolonged period of time (for many reasons: the independent school world is small, and you want to maintain a reputation as a respectful team-player; leaving on short notice leaves the school in a bit of a quandary, etc.), if the situation arises, you need to act fast.
As soon as you accept a new position, you need to tell your superiors so they can find a replacement quickly. How much you reveal about the rationale behind your secretiveness is up to you; in this instance, though, it might be okay to be vague. For example, if you’re searching because you don’t get along with the current Head of School, there’s no need to tell that to him or her. You could just say you were offered an opportunity that made the most sense for you and your family, and that you’ll be taking it. Be as candid as possible, though, when it comes to the necessary information; i.e., when the new job starts and when you’ll be leaving your current school.
Do it in Person
Whether or not your acceptance of a new position will come as a surprise to your administration, you should reveal that information in an in-person conversation—not via email. Your news is important for your superiors and for your current school: you should demonstrate your respect for both the administration and the institution by breaking this news in-person. If things are awkward between you and the administration, all the more reason to discuss face-to-face: a toneless, too-formal, or off-the-cuff email will likely only make things more awkward, not less.
Unlike in other industries, when an employee may give “two weeks’ notice” before a nearly immediate departure, you will likely stay at your current school for several weeks or even months before beginning your new job. There’s a school year to finish, students to tend to, and exams and papers to grade. You can also use your remaining weeks as an opportunity to help your current administration in preparing for your departure.
Get your affairs in order and make sure an incoming teacher or administrator will not find any errors in your work. If you know who will be replacing you, set aside some time to train him or her. Ask your superiors what you can do to ease the transition. You’ll be helpful—and you’ll likely remain in their good graces long after you’ve left the school.