Are there any secrets to being a great educator? We asked our Now Teach cohorts for their insider knowledge and advice.
Making the decision to become a teacher is a huge undertaking – and for many trainees, the decision itself is a hurdle to get over. When you’ve decades doing something very different, how do you know you’re suited to a career in education?
We all want certainties in life, and embarking on a new career journey is fraught with unknowns. Luckily, our cohorts have shared their take on what they think makes a good teacher.
The right attitude
For some of our trainees, they first needed to develop the mindset that this could be a realistic option for them. Such as Jane Leighton, who worked on local authority cultural projects before retraining as a Maths teacher. ‘Initially I really lacked confidence in believing I could actually be a teacher, so the support from Now Teach during the application process was fantastic,’ she explains. ‘It hooked me in. There was a gradual sifting and sorting through the recruitment process and then someone said, “We think you can teach.” It was brilliant and gave me the confidence to go on.’
The ability to learn quickly
Once you’ve got that mindset, there’s then the need to learn an awful lot of new skills. ‘Teaching is the most skilled job I have ever come across,’ says Zed Holmes, who left banking behind for teaching. ‘The learning curve is so steep. You need to have great analytical skills but you also have to be great at presenting and showcasing and engaging an audience who might not always want to be there. There is so much to learn and do.’
Lucy Kellaway, the founder of Now Teach and a new teacher herself, agrees: ‘It never stops amazing me how much more complicated, skilled and difficult teaching is than I’d thought,’ she says.
Ideal character traits
As well as willingness to learn, our Now Teachers also believe there are a number of innate characteristics that suit the profession. Lucy Moore, now a Maths teacher at Ark Elvin Academy, says ‘many of the attributes you need to be a good teacher you can learn, but there are a few others you need to have already, such as being resilient and reflective,’ she says. ‘You also need to be highly organised. You need to know where everything is and to be good at planning your time.’
A valuable goal
Another key area to explore is why you want to get into teaching in the first place. It’s time to ask yourself some questions and work out what your goal is for this new career. ‘Forget your subject,’ says Richard Lewis, a History and Business Studies teacher at School 21 in East London. ‘The real questions to ask yourself are: do you want to teach? Do you want to convey knowledge? Liking your subject will not necessarily make you a good teacher.’
An appetite for change
Finally, you have to be absolutely on board with the idea that this will be the biggest shake-up to your world in a long time. ‘My advice to anyone considering the move into teaching would be that change is a great thing. It’s really reinvigorating and can be good for your soul and your sanity to do something new from scratch,’ says Mark Jobling, a Biology trainee at Ark John Keats. ‘But you’ve got to be aware that it’s really hard work. It’s not an easy cop-out to leave the world of business – you’ve got to feel that you’d be a good teacher.’
“When you’ve decades doing something very different, how do you know you’re suited to a career in education?”