Calling full-time on your career: From Arsenal to the classroom

Charles Allen, former Arsenal Marketing Director now Spanish Teacher, shares his motivations to teach, his experience of changing careers, and how instrumental Now Teach has been in his journey from the stadium to the classroom.

3 mins

10/5/2023 2:18:20 PM
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From Arsenal's Marketing Director to teaching teenagers Spanish

When I think about my career prior to becoming a teacher, it's not as surprising to me as it might be to others that I am now a teacher. During my 30 years in business, I held several senior commercial and marketing roles in leading consumer goods companies and sports franchises, and for the past decade, I was Arsenal Football Club’s Marketing Director. 

I've never been shy of switching things up on myself, having lived and worked in 6 different countries, and persuading myself – and importantly others – that the marketing techniques successful in building international brands would also work in professional sport.

So, as Covid provided many people with an opportunity to reflect on personal and professional priorities, I too did just that and concluded that I needed a new challenge in the third stage of my career. 

Most of what I intended to achieve at Arsenal had been done - it’s not my fault they didn’t win the Premier League - and I was beginning to feel that the work was becoming a bit repetitive. There is also a truism in business that the more senior you become your functional skills are required less, but your leadership and development skills are tested more. 

"Once I decided to cut the umbilical cord of security to my corporate existence it was incredibly liberating." 

Calling full-time on your career 

As I took stock of my career, I could see that the periods I had enjoyed most were when I was developing and mentoring people. Be it as a sales trainer selling soft drinks, as part of the development team on a major blue chip marketing programme, or at Arsenal developing a professional marketing team from an almost standing start. 

Basically, I was a teacher, and I had been for a while – I just didn’t know it. And to be completely honest, I had been thinking about teaching for a while. It was a mix of the pandemic, a desire to do something with greater purpose, and a move from London to Suffolk that crystallised the decision, so I took the plunge. 



Like many people I am sure, I had no idea how to make this happen, what it involved and whether I would be any good at it. Fortunately, someone I knew had heard of Now Teach and suggested that I do a bit of research.  

Taking the plunge was relatively easy. Once I decided to cut the umbilical cord of security to my corporate existence it was incredibly liberating. Liberating but still daunting. This is where the experience of Now Teach really helped me.  

Now Teach takes you to the brink, you jump, and fortunately, they have strapped a parachute to your back. I was well briefed about what to expect - "it may not be as organised as you are used to", and "remember that you will now probably be the oldest and least experienced person in the staff room, you need to live comfortably with that".   

And ultimately the counsel was that I was basically going back to Uni, adding a Masters qualification to my degree, but probably with fewer hangovers! More than anything though going to the Now Teach gatherings and meeting other like-minded people was the most valuable. I felt and continue to feel part of a tribe. 

"Basically, I was a teacher, and I had been for a while – I just didn’t know it."


Advice for new players 

Upon reflection, the advice I would give to myself at this stage – or anyone considering a career change to teaching – is to appreciate your existing skills and knowledge, and to trust that they are transferable. Your life skills, experience, perspective and enthusiasm are in high demand, and will benefit both students and schools.

During training, you will acquire subject knowledge, pedagogy, and teaching skills that will further boost your confidence. And the desire to do something purposeful and to feel useful in the lives of young people will motivate you as you learn. 

I chose to take the SCITT route for my training (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) with Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT. Taking the SCITT or University route is a key decision. Now Teach helped me with this by connecting me with people who had chosen both routes, so I could understand them a bit more. Ultimately, I felt that as I would eventually be in a school anyway, I might as well start from day 1. 

Although I am now teaching part-time, I trained full-time. This really helped my transition as my training then became my full-time job. Going to work every day felt familiar and was what I needed. It is hard work. I don’t think I have ever worked as hard AND felt such a level of personal and professional satisfaction. 

I don't think you know if you are totally cut out for teaching until you start and stand in front of 30 students for the first time. I never and still have never doubted my choice to train as a teacher. Like marmite - you love it, or you don't. 

Now Teach never had to pick me up off the floor, but the value during my training came in the topspin applied by the additional sessions, conferences and webinars offered. There is no doubt that the Now Teach content is fresher, targeted at people like us, and often includes concepts not covered by SCITT. I believe it to be at the leading edge of pedagogy! 

The best piece of advice I was given before my teacher training was to be selfish. Selfish in the form of not getting involved in school process improvements – even though my business experience and instinct tell me to – and instead, giving myself the time to focus 100% on being the best teacher I could be. 

"Now Teach takes you to the brink, you jump, and fortunately, they've strapped a parachute to your back."

Moving up a league 

I have now finished my first year as an ECT (Early Career Teacher) and just started my second year as a part-time Modern Foreign Languages teacher. 

Deciding to teach part-time was a great decision for me. I am on a 0.6 contract spread over 4 days, which gives me a guaranteed day off during the week and a timetable that is nicely spaced out so I can focus on enjoying teaching and striving to be the best teacher that I can be.  

Unfortunately, no one goes into teaching for the money, but there is so much to enjoy about teaching. My own children have long left home as have the children of most of my friends. Being in school connects me with the energy that young people have - and not just the students - many members of the staff room are also many years my junior.   

It keeps me relevant and connected, all while teaching a subject that I am knowledgeable and passionate about. The satisfaction of seeing learning breaking out in a class and witnessing students do things with the language that they were unable to do prior to my involvement, is what carries me through the hard parts. 

As I enter my second year as an ECT, I am beginning to bring more of my experience to the school. I am now the staff representative of the school governors. Now Teach really encouraged me to take my whole self to school, so once I mastered the basics – I felt ready to step into the governor role. 

Additionally, as I get to know the students better, I am offering more advice to them on A level and career choices.  Many can’t imagine living and working in London, let alone abroad, so being able to share some of my experience with them is hugely satisfying. 

My primary goal is being the best teacher I can be, and although right now I have little ambition to have more management responsibility at school, this may change... like the manager who kicks every ball on the touchline, I just won't be able to stop myself! 

"I have never doubted my choice to train as a teacher."

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