That’s the vision of The Age of No Retirement, a Community Interest Company, and a cause Now Teach are extremely passionate about.
We help older workers change career to teaching as we know their experience is valuable and will impact schools and young people positively.
Julia Randell-Khan, co-founder of The Purpose Xchange, an Encore career advocate, and longevity entrepreneur, shares advice on how to highlight the benefits of your experience when applying for teaching jobs.
Teaching is a stressful profession, and people who’ve worked in previous careers are more instinctive in navigating difficult or tense situations. Long years in the workforce have developed your ability to solve complex problems.
“It also means you’re able to see the big picture, make informed decisions and give advice. That can really help for strategic or operational changes within a team, such as introducing a new policy or curriculum.”
Strike the right tone
When you’re in an interview, you’ve got to acknowledge that you have less than one year of teaching experience! That’s where the right attitude comes in: demonstrate an openness and curiosity to learn. Bring in tangible examples of when you’ve done that and how you bring your skills into the classroom.
As extra prep, I’d advocate talking to friends and your Network of Now Teachers, asking: “If I answered the question like this, how would I come across? How does that sound?” It’s key to come across in the right way, with the right language and tone.
Draw on your previous experience
It’s always essential to be prepared with some really good practical examples – in this case, of successful lessons or relationships and also of prior life skills being used in the classroom to support teaching.
Obviously understanding the curriculum is key to that, so you can show that you know what the school is doing or seeking to do, and what you feel you can add.
There are some very good stories on the Now Teach blog – useful case studies of people talking about the way they transferred their skills in unexpected ways.
Flag up any age-related needs
You might be dealing with a health condition, learning need or skills gap related to your age. But don’t avoid the issue. Frame it not in terms of what you need, but what will get the best for the school.
For example, if you need support in getting up to speed with technology, you can say: “These students need this kind of tech available to them in order to learn. I need to practice this. Can I rehearse with somebody or watch someone else doing it?” If you do it from the point of view of the interests of the organisation, that lands better than starting with “I need.”
Schools will have development plans for all employees – for the older teacher, that may include reference to hearing or visual needs, menopause or mobility, but that’s normal. As with everyone at any stage of life, it’s about getting the best out of you.
Good to know
You can’t be asked about age in an interview. It’s a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
You don’t have to put your birthdate on an application. However, you can if you want to.
How to handle age-related questions
If you are asked something which seems age-related, explicitly or implicitly, I would challenge it.
Use a light touch, but reframe the question: e.g. “What I understand from this question is that this is what you’re asking...” Show that you recognise the concern they have and that it’s misplaced or the product of an assumption.
Yes, you may find yourself having to educate the interviewer about their assumptions as well as positioning yourself as a strong candidate. Draw on your life skills, empathy, emotional maturity and ability to read the situation.
If you genuinely feel that there’s age discrimination then do seek advice and consider taking it further.
“The Guardian reports that age-related discrimination cases in England and Wales have risen by over 30% since Covid lockdown.”
You’re bringing value, experience and the commitment of someone who’s changed career for teaching.
People who make a switch through Now Teach are totally fired up with energy for finding a new role at this stage in life!
Remember: a savvy recruiter will not see an older applicant and bring down the shutters. They will say: “Wow. Let’s see how we can benefit from the experience this person is bringing.”.
You can make a difference.
Come to one of our webinars and find out how we can support you to take your passion into the classroom.