Vishal worked as an investment banker and then an executive search consultant before qualifying as a career/life coach and trainer. Through helping other people, he became inspired to retrain as a maths teacher.
My main career motivation has always been to try to bring out the best in people and this is what attracted me to teaching. However, I would advise anyone interested in switching to education to get the lay of the land first. It can be tempting to see it through rose-tinted glasses and have romantic notions about it. I have to say that this is the hardest I have ever worked, but out of all the jobs I’ve had, teaching is by far the most enjoyable.
The transformative effect of education
After working for several years coaching people and teams from all different walks of life and across different organisations to help them reach their potential, I became aware of how difficult it is for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access these types of resources. I have always loved learning and was fortunate enough to have some excellent teachers at school who encouraged me to aim high. However, not every child has the same opportunity (for a number of reasons) and this is what attracted me to working in education.
I chose to do the school direct route with Ark Teacher Training who work with schools in disadvantaged areas. Something important that I learned during my training year was that you can be a great teacher of your subject, but the thing that will connect with most students is if they know you are turning up day in, day out for them. Be firm but fair and most importantly: show them that you care.
I’ll never forget my last day at my previous school because my Year 10 class wrote me a heartfelt card saying that they felt I really cared about all of them. That is exactly what you want to hear as a teacher and it made all the tough days with them worthwhile.
Spending time in schools
I had an easier training year than most people because I had organised work experience at five different secondary schools in the lead-up. Having that time beforehand to talk to other teachers and help out with a few of their classes and students meant that I felt pretty confident on my first day on my own in the classroom. I preferred the school direct pathway as I had my own classes from the outset and was allowed to ‘run with it.’ I was also able to work in a school for two terms before starting my training though I appreciate this will not be possible for everyone.
I actually heard about Now Teach from one of those other teachers and in a case of serendipity, saw a Now Teach advert at the same time. It seemed like a sign and it couldn’t have happened at a better time because I was carefully considering what steps to take to get into teaching. Now Teach helped me to get my training place and I received excellent advice from my Programme Manager and the wider team about adapting to my new role.
Joining the network of career-changers was a real godsend; we were able to support each other from the get-go and still do. I am in regular contact with them through the extensive Now Teach WhatsApp groups and we try to meet up regularly.
Career progression in education
One topic I’ve discussed over the years with other members of the Now Teach Network who have been promoted in their schools is the career ladder and different pathways. It wasn’t something that I had gone into teaching to do because I’d already had senior roles. However, when I moved to a school in North London to continue teaching maths, there were opportunities to take on more responsibility.
This experience enabled me to move to my current school where, apart from teaching maths and having pastoral Sixth Form responsibilities, from day one I was put in charge of preparing students for a nationally recognised qualification for Years 12 and 13.
A few months later I heard that they were recruiting for the Head of Economics role and I was encouraged to apply. I had a long think about it before putting myself forward as I knew it would be another significant challenge but I’m glad I did. I was offered the job and I’m convinced that my degrees in Economics and my previous career in investment banking played a part. I now teach both maths and economics and am enjoying the experience!