- Your Supervisor. According to the HBS this is the #1 reason why people decide to leave after a very short time in the job. I started to think about this. In fact in most schools where I have worked I have been hired by someone who was not my supervisor - usually the Head/Director of the school. And no matter how many "good vibes" you might get in an interview situation, usually this is not the person that you are dealing with all day, every day in your new job. In fact by the time you arrive, this person may even have moved on to another school. Arriving in a new job and finding that the person who is one step up the ladder from you is just not a person you can work with, is horrible. This is something that it's not really possible to do a lot of homework about beforehand - in particular because your supervisor might well be a new hire too.
- Transition Issues. We talked about how hard it is to transition from one school or one country to another. At ASB we pride ourselves on being "masters of transition" - even brining new staff to the school 3 months before their contract starts, to give them a good introduction to the school and to living in India. Other places are not so good at this. Someone I used to work with recounted her arrival story at a different school where she had to find her own way from the airport to her new apartment all by herself and when she got there she found there was nothing at all in the apartment. She recounts how she had taken the blanket with her off the plane and how she put this down on the floor of her new apartment and lay down on it to sleep. The following day she had to navigate buying furniture, getting a telephone connected, getting internet and so on - all in a language she did not speak. Perhaps it's not surprising that this teacher resigned before Christmas of her first year! We all go through a honeymoon period following a transition, and then a big dip. The support (or not) of a school can make a huge difference as to how deep the dip is and how quickly you can get out of it.
- A Disconnect. There are many reasons why you might find yourself in a situation of disconnect, so that you feel you don't fit into your new school. Perhaps the values of the people there are different from yours. Perhaps their philosophy of education may be different. Perhaps you have been led to believe something and it turned out not to be true. Perhaps you were so keen to get the job that you settled for something that was not really a good fit for you.
- Personal Reasons. These are the ones that everyone will understand - the ones that no one can ever hold against you. Suddenly finding that you or a family member is ill. A death of a parent that calls you back home.
It's interesting to think how these may apply to our students too. Why some kids who do very well in one place, do extremely poorly in another. Perhaps they end up in a class with a teacher for whom it is just not a good fit. Perhaps the culture of the school is totally different from what they are used to. Perhaps different things are valued. We often forget that we, as adults, can do our homework about a school and can still make a terrible mistake in accepting a job there - and we have the choice. Our children don't have any choice at all. Something worth thinking about for international school teachers who end up with "difficult" children in their classes!