Why the challenges of changing career shouldn’t stop you

Robert Weeks, computer science teacher and former software product manager, turns the negative views about retraining as a teacher on their head and explains why it's the best choice he ever made.

4 mins

6/24/2024 4:38:19 PM
Robert Weeks Blog Quote

My desire to teach came around slowly. I had been unsatisfied in work for a long time, and as I approached what I assumed was the halfway point of my working career I was almost dreading more of the same.

I was only the second person in my family to go to university and had enjoyed the opportunities that an education had given me, not least my career as a software product manager.

But I found myself increasingly wanting a new challenge.

I also realised I wanted to inspire our next generation of computer scientists - or even just help some people on their way to a life of working alongside technology. There is a massive shortage of computing teachers, and I wanted the opportunity to be a part of the solution.


My wife has been a teaching assistant for a few years in a local secondary school and had repeatedly told me that I’d make a great teacher. She helped arrange for me to visit a local school and get first-hand experience of what life in a school is really like.

I read some of the stories of career changers on the Now Teach website, and attended a Now Teach networking day with people from all walks of life that had already made the leap to teaching. That was hugely motivational.

When I told my friends and colleagues I was changing careers, I received a lot of kind comments and goodwill, but - as expected - there were some negative views about career change or school environment. And I got it!


One of the things people said to me was, ‘Why are you giving up your career!? You’ll have to start again.’ My answer to them was pretty simple – this isn’t what ‘giving up’ a career looks like. This is a new phase of my career. And yes, I am starting again. That’s part of the point – I want to do something new and to learn it all from scratch – because how fascinating is that? To be able to watch yourself learn and develop a new set of skills.

The other response was the old chestnut about students and how would I cope with their bad behaviour.

To be honest, this part of becoming a teacher didn’t make me anxious.

I find building relationships is exceptionally rewarding and think most difficult behaviour has a root cause such as lack of confidence and self-esteem. I also knew that teacher training would equip me with behaviour management tools and that Now Teach ran regular behaviour ‘surgeries’ where I could ask specific questions.

So the thing about the criticisms was not they were completely untrue – but that they were only part of the story. Yes, changing career to teaching has challenges but I found I could face them – and with the support of Now Teach I could do much more than just survive the experience.


I felt that my motivations for becoming a teacher were strong, and whilst I was nervous (I took that as a healthy sign) I started my PGCE exceptionally excited for the journey ahead.

I expected to find the workload hard, and I won’t lie to you: it’s a very busy year.

You are juggling learning to teach with delivering the curriculum, as well as collecting evidence to demonstrate that you meet the Teachers Standards. And then on top of this you’re likely doing university work and essays, if you’re doing a PGCE.

However, I found that my previous experience of managing deadlines and prioritising tasks really helped. It’s an example of how your previous skills can help you as you start to pick up the skills you need to build to teach.


As part of the PGCE you undertake two ‘contrasting placements’ – training in two different schools to give you a varied experience in that first year.

I expected to find moving schools easy (we’ve all moved workplaces, right?), but in reality, I found it hard. I’d built good relationships with staff and pupils, and I was beginning to feel like I understood a lot of the processes and systems.

When I started my second placement I was in a new environment with new processes, and I found the first week gruelling. Change in itself can be psychologically demanding! I slept very well each night!

But before I knew it, I was beginning to feel like I was finding my feet again.

That’s just one of the reasons that being part of Now Teach helps – they help you realise that most of what you’re experiencing is normal and that this too will pass.

What helped in both schools was working within amazing departments who really supported me to get going. Both of my mentors have been excellent and their experience in building up new teachers has really shone through.


Lots of people worry about managing behaviour. Through Now Teach I was able to attend classroom surgeries where attendees could bring their questions and scenarios to Karl Pupé and get ideas and feedback.

These sessions were invaluable for me, giving me strategies that I was able to use straightaway. One example was giving students an ‘easy road’ and a ‘hard road’ and allowing them to make a decision between the two – but also most importantly giving them some take-up time to make a decision rather than standing over them.

I’ve used this before when a pupil refuses to do any work, often because of previous negative experiences and a lack of confidence.

I have often said “I really need you to complete this activity so that you keep progressing, and I’ll help you get started. But if you refuse then I’m going to have to follow the school rules and set a detention, and you’re going to be grumpy at me for bringing you back in your spare time and I’m going to be grumpy that I’m also losing my free time. I’ll come back in 60 seconds ready to help you, and I’m sure you’ll have made a great decision.”

I find most children respond well with this approach, as they just need time to control their emotions and make a rational choice.

There is a real joy when you can turn it around and help them realise that they can do your subject, and each interaction is an opportunity to put a bit of money in your savings account with a student. Hopefully you’ll soon start accruing the interest from those deposits.

Completing and continuing

I’m coming up to the end of my training year and it has flown by. I have loved the challenge so far, and any teacher will tell you that you will always be learning to teach. Even after a great lesson I have stuff I want to change.

When a lesson doesn’t quite go to plan, you reflect and work out what you will do differently next time.

I’m already proud to tell people that I am a teacher and if you’re thinking of it, talk to Now Teach to scratch that itch.

Talk to us about becoming a teacher