This is the time of the school year when many start to contemplate the next school year. Especially if you are wondering if you should stay at a toxic school. 

As a teacher, there can be some flexibility in where your career takes you. (Where else do you let your employer know your intention of returning in the early spring with no direct consequence?)

You’ve most likely already signed whether or not you are returning to your school and district next year or if you would prefer to be on the transfer list. 

While there may be some specific stipulations and legalities for changing your response if you are still wondering if you should stay or go, take some more time to think about it.

The answer to whether you should stay or leave your current teaching position is both simple and complex.

Get Help from theThe Brutal Facts of Staying at a Toxic School

Here’s the simple answer. 

Teachers change. Administration changes. Students change. 

In my teaching career of 13 years in education:

  • I have taught at 3 different high schools,
  • Switched school districts, 
  • Worked in the district (central office),
  • And went into administration.

Too many times you stay in a current situation not knowing what else is in play. While you love your current team, that can change in a matter of days. Life happens, opportunity happens, and we’re all replaceable.

Great teams and great teachers don’t survive in a toxic school environment. While your team has supported and loved each other this year, that can’t last forever. It’s too easy to burn out, be stressed, and feel undervalued in a toxic school environment. 

Like you, your other team members are also wondering if they should stay or leave. They may not tell you, but they could be looking for other opportunities. It could be another school, district, or different opportunity altogether.

Is Staying at a Toxic School in Your Career Plan?

What do you do if you don’t have trusted support at your school or district? The

The more complex answer lies in the factors beyond your team. 

The best advice I received in my first year of teaching was: do what’s best for you, your family, and your career.

At the time, Jared (my welding teaching husband), and I were teaching in two different districts. I commuted 30 minutes north and he commuted 30 minutes south. 

It wasn’t a big deal until the school holidays came along. Spring break, fall break, Christmas break. They hardly ever lined up. 

Let me tell you, spring break was mighty boring that first year all alone with nowhere to go and nothing to do. 

When the opportunity for me to leave my school and join Jared in his district, I took it. There were plenty of tears, but I am glad I made that decision. For me, for Jared, and our family.

I’ve since given that same advice to other teachers who are deciding if they need a change. (I’ve even upset some admin colleagues on the way since a last-minute job opening can be challenging to fill.)

So here it is again. Do what’s best for you, your family, and your career. Your’s and no one else’s.

Next Steps for After Deciding to Not Stay at a Toxic School

Now that you’ve decided to leave, you’ve opened up a lot more opportunities. 

Was it the school you were teaching at that was toxic or did you not like what you were teaching? Perhaps you would like to switch from high school to middle school. Maybe you want to teach more elective courses rather than required ones or vice versa.

Would you ever consider being an instructional coach or support staff? What would you like your schedule to be?

Once you figure out where you want to go next, start looking for positions. Not all these positions will be posted yet, so start talking and connecting with others so you know what will be becoming available. 

If you feel comfortable, talk to your principal or director about what your career goals are. They are connected as well and can let you know if positions will be opening and where. They may also have some suggestions for positions you may not have thought about.

From there you will start the application process and get an interview. 

Wherever you apply, understand that they will call your current administration, so be prepared. If they know that it’s coming, they won’t be blindsided. 

It may make things uncomfortable for the rest of the school year, but it will be worth leaving a toxic teaching environment.

In Summary

Deciding whether to stay or leave your current school is simple and complex. You need to do what’s best for you, your family, and your career. Teachers change. Admin change. Students change. Position yourself to be the very best educator by being in an environment where you can thrive and be supported. This could mean that you switch up your position completely. 

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