English Teacher, middle leader and #WomenEd network lead, Annabella Zanetti (@A_R_zanetti) explores the importance of resilience and acknowledging progress when looking to return to the classroom following an extended maternity career break.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

 – Samuel Beckett

I was waiting to write this post until it had a happy ending. But that’s not really the point of resilience, is it? There’s not always some wonderfully neat teleological pathway to success. Actually, the reality of failure is that when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel like there’s a way out.

I have been teaching since 2012, I’m a successful and respected middle leader, someone colleagues ask for advice, confide in, and collaborate with. I’m a network lead for #WomenEd, was accepted onto the Chartered Teacher programme before I took maternity leave. I have been applying for teaching positions for six months and haven’t been invited to a single interview for a teaching or middle leadership position.

Self-doubt takes the reins.

Is it because I’m too expensive? Do recruiters understand my foreign qualifications? Is it just that I’m not a local – there are candidates they know? Maybe I’m just not a very strong candidate. I like to believe that recruitment processes are fair, but we all know where bias seeps in. And it’s hard not to take it personally, when writing personal statements feels so, well… personal.

So, what do you do? You aim to fail better. With each application you feel like you’ve made progress towards the one that will get an interview. You seek feedback. And it feels vulnerable inviting feedback from people who don’t know you and aren’t invested in your success – but I know that my statements have improved. I have taken a more forensic approach to person specifications, I’ve reflected on my successes, my teaching style, and learned to articulate these. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my failures, too.

I was talking to my coach the other day about how demoralising it is to be constantly rejected. When applying at schools, you might not even be told you’ve not been shortlisted. You have no recourse to find out why, and so you’re left in the dark wondering why applications aren’t hitting the mark. Coaching is helping me to maintain my optimism, build a network, and find creative ways to work towards my career goals that don’t require a permanent job. Hope is the ultimate food for tenacity and resilience. Community helps too, and using Twitter to connect with colleagues to give feedback and encouragement has been a godsend.

I don’t know what I’ll be doing in September, or if I’ll be teaching next year. I don’t know if other opportunities will arise. But I’m holding onto hope.

*Since writing this blog, Annabella secured a Curriculum Lead role in a local school within walking distance from her home and will be returning to the classroom in September 2022!