I was 53 and working as a strategy consultant when I started looking into teaching. My main motivation for becoming a teacher was the opportunity to play a valuable role in society, but it took a long time for me to see the fruits of my labour.
It is hard to know how much of an impact you are having as a teacher on a day-to-day basis, but it’s always clear to me whenever I speak to my past pupils. They remember you long after they leave your classroom and embark on their careers.
"Having the opportunity to realise my dream of teaching my favourite subject at this later stage in life has been a full-circle experience for me."
A passion for the past
History was my favourite subject at school, and it was mainly because of my teacher. He used to show us lots of historically based films, and they stuck with me. One film I recall was ‘A Man for All Seasons’ about Thomas More in the time of Henry VIII.
It’s no wonder then that I went on to study Economic and Social History with the aim of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, one of my lecturers put me off the idea, and ultimately, I decided to do an MBA instead of a PGCE. I worked for nearly 20 years in banking, with roles ranging from strategy development to building client relationships.
It wasn’t until I came across Lucy Kellaway’s article in the Financial Times that I finally decided to make the leap into teaching. I was really inspired by her story and felt reassured knowing that there was a clear route for people like me. Having the opportunity to realise my dream of teaching my favourite subject at this later stage in life has been a full-circle experience for me.
Paving the way for other career-changers
I was part of the first cohort of Now Teachers back in 2017 who followed Lucy back to the classroom and we all became very close for this reason. Four of us trained at West London Free School, although my colleagues have since taken up opportunities elsewhere.
We were able to give advice to the other Now Teachers that joined our school since then and I have enjoyed getting to know the different cohorts that were inspired by our decision to change careers.
Now Teach has been so supportive, especially in the beginning. They helped me organise my training and find a school. Something that I found invaluable during my training year was the evening events that they organised for us. There was a great sense of community in the Now Teach Network, which made my training and NQT years enjoyable. I also have a phenomenal Programme Manager who I know I can reach out to at any time.
A long-lasting impact
Looking back over the past few years, it has certainly been a mix, albeit with many more highs than lows. It was a new challenge to become a junior again, but I found it quite cleansing to have only myself to rely on after so many years of managing other people.
In addition to teaching history, I have been approached by my school at different points to teach politics and economics when it was needed. I have enjoyed being able to use that part of my degree while also drawing on my experiences working in finance. I think having lived through important political moments such as the miners’ strike and two major recessions means that I can shed some new light on these events for my students.
More recently my former pupils have started to contact me to say how engaging my lessons were and how much they learned at school. They realise that they don’t get the same attention at university, and it makes them appreciate everything I did for them. It has touched me each time it’s happened and inspires me to keep doing what I love, no matter how hard it can be at times.
It took Stephen many years before he decided to change career into teaching. Find out if teaching is for you and how we can help you with your transition back to school.