| Case Studies

From corporate lawyer to Now Teach trainee

Study path with Now Teach: History at a Secondary School
Previous career: Corporate lawyer, specialising in intellectual property, data and cybersecurity
Training period: September 2017 – July 2019 Where? Ark Putney Academy, London

I was a business lawyer for 25 years.  It’s a great job – as well as my mainstream practice, I was able to work with organisations  like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Reprieve and the Stephen Lawrence Foundation. But that altruistic work is very much the icing on a very business driven cake.

Part of my personal motivation in becoming a lawyer was always the human rights side.  I was a “bit of a leftie” when I was young; once I hit 50, I started to think:

What you’ve ended up doing is not necessarily aligned with what you thought you’d be doing when you were 19 or 20.

I started to wonder if I would get the chance to address that before time caught up with me.

It’s now eight months since I began training with Now Teach and I’m really enjoying being in school and the interactions I have with my pupils.  The students at Ark Putney Academy have so much potential, and, given the opportunity, they completely engage in their learning and in contributing to and being part of the school.

That’s a huge thrill. Another big buzz  is re-engaging in an academic way in my first degree subject: history. The level of detail and historical understanding you need to teach to a group of eager, sharp, challenging minds, is incredible and I’m really enjoying it.

My third highlight has been learning about the skills of teaching. It’s really fascinating. After 8 months, I’m still working out the balance between a direct style of teaching, getting the knowledge across, and the art of doing that in a way the students engage with, enjoy and learn from.

I have found significant benefits having a different career behind you before entering teaching.  Being a 50-something former lawyer and father of two (almost) grown up children, leaves you generally comfortable in your own skin. After over 25 years of the twists and turns, lumps and bumps of life as a lawyer, 23 of them as a Dad, I’m not often wrong-footed. If something untoward does pop up in the classroom, like the large spider crawling up the wall 9 inches from Luisa’s face in the middle of a Year 7 lesson on the 12th century power struggle of Stephen and Matilda, I can normally deal with it!

The main carry-overs from my legal career were communication skills, presentation skills and a “control-freaky” need for organisation and preparation.

Of course there are challenges. One of the biggest, for me, is how physically knackering it is! I’m reasonably fit, I play five-a-side football every week and I’m not that overweight, but teaching in a school is physically and intellectually very demanding.

One: You’re on your feet all day. Two: During training you’re trying to remember everything you have to do in each lesson and to remember the subject. Three: Behaviour and class control. Four: The feedback you need to be giving to the pupils.

Doing that for an hour is quite exhausting, doing that for six consecutive hours in a day and then having to sit down and do your preparation for the following day, most days a week, means that by the time I get home, I’m ready for a cold beer and bed by 9pm.

There are two other Now Teach trainees in my school so I see them all the time and I have a coach and a mentor on hand to help. The teachers at Ark Putney have been really welcoming and supportive. As older people, new to the profession, we need to show massive respect to them. We need to show we’re willing to work just as hard, learn just as much and make the same sacrifices as they are in making a success of teaching.

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