Annual career reviews can be powerful tools in shaping your experience of a profession. Separate from any performance management you must undertake, they can ask pertinent questions about your direction of travel and help you to hone ideas about future professional learning. They should be honest and inclusive discussions, more about finding out what will support you over the coming months than about fault-finding or random goal-setting. And naturally, they should celebrate all that you have become so far as a teacher!
To make annual career reviews work for you, try these five ideas:
1. Set the date, and the agenda – If annual career reviews aren’t a feature in your school, you can ask for one. It may be linked to your performance review but you may find it more effective if it isn’t. It is important that the agenda includes everything you want to discuss. If the process is to benefit you, it has to reflect your current needs.
2. Prepare – make the most of this time. The review need not necessarily be done with the most senior member of your school’s leadership team. In fact, it can be more helpful if this isn’t the case if there are others who work with you more closely. For example, year or key stage leaders, or heads of department or faculty. Make sure you know what you want to cover and identify some professional learning desires well in advance of the meeting. Nothing should be foisted upon you! For this to work, the discussion needs to take your views, concerns and desires fully into consideration. Plot the route for the discussion, and have plenty of evidence of your successes with regard to your goals from the year just gone.
3. Be realistic – such a review can only really be a snapshot in time. This is no replacement for ongoing professional conversations throughout the year. But it can be an important space in which to focus on where you want to go, how you might get there, and who can help you along the way.
4. Be astute – so often we can walk away from meetings without expressing precisely how we felt, possibly because we did not have a chance in the meeting to consider what was going on. Being astute and tuning in to how you’re feeling about the suggestions being made and the support offered will help to ensure that you express what needs to be said at the time. If you leave the meeting feeling demotivated or dispirited, ask for a follow up as soon as possible. Who can help you to get back on track?
5. Keep it real – If possible, have the meeting in the location where you do most of your work. For many that will be the classroom. This helps to keep the focus on you. There is always an inevitable tension between the professional learning needs and desires of individual teachers and those of the institution as a whole (often driven by the latest fads and fashions in policy and beyond). But for this process to be supportive of your career goals, it needs to remain fully anchored in your experience of the job. This may be a minor detail, but it’s an important one.
Annual career reviews can make all the difference. But they need to be focused and building on your evidence from the previous year, as well as your wildest dreams for the future. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, this review should help you to get there, with the creation of a path ahead and signposts to help along the way.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.