From solicitor to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2019 – June 2020
Where: OasisAcademy Silvertown
Subject: French & German
I was a solicitor for around 25 years, practising in the fields of litigation and risk management in and around the City of London. I specialised in professional negligence law; I enjoyed the intellectual challenge and problem-solving aspect of my cases and supporting my clients at what was inevitably a very difficult point in their professional career.
Taking a career-break
In my mid-30s, I spent a couple of years travelling and working as a volunteer. Having obtained a TEFL qualification, I taught English to school students in Ghana – classes of 50, ages between 10 and 17 and ability range equally wide. Despite the challenges of one of the hottest dry seasons the country had experienced for years, limited teaching resources, constant power outages and some nasty experiences with malaria, I absolutely loved my time as a teacher. The huge buzz that I got from working with children, helping them learn and hearing about their ideas and lives, was completely unmatched by anything I had experienced in my working life up to that point – or have experienced since.
The idea of teaching never went away: in my legal career after that I sought out opportunities to be involved in training, mentoring young professionals and delivering seminars, and I promised myself I would teach as a volunteer again later in my working life or when I retired.
Having Now Teach advisers to guide me through the maze initially was hugely helpful
Routes into teaching
A good friend of mine, a former lawyer colleague, had re-trained to become a primary teacher. Fortunately for me, she had heard about the Now Teach programme and when I was talking with her about a possible career change, she mentioned it to me. Once I started to look into it, it became clear to me that the education landscape is fragmented, complicated and very different from when I myself was at school and university. The routes into teacher-training are equally complex. Having Now Teach advisers to guide me through the maze initially was hugely helpful and since then their help with finding a training placement and preparing for the training year has been very valuable. Through their events and trainee groups, you also get to meet and talk with other prospective trainees who are career-changers like you, and this too is a good source of support and information.
Subject knowledge support
The initial challenge of my own career-change has been ensuring that the subjects I will be teaching – French and German – are brought up to the required standard. There are now state-funded Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses available to trainee teachers returning to their subject after a long gap – these can help you both revise existing knowledge and extend it. I am currently doing an excellent SKE in French, using an online language learning platform and having weekly skype tutorials with a practising Modern Foreign Languages teacher and another teacher who is a native French speaker. I am confident that these will ensure that I feel sufficiently secure in my subject knowledge that I will be able to focus on my teaching skills during my training year.
The career change will clearly involve other challenges, including adapting to a new working environment outside business and becoming a ‘beginner’ at doing my job again after many years of being a specialist. I have spent some time this year working and observing lessons in schools, which I hope will have prepared me for these challenges to an extent.
the last thing I feel I want right now is a slow ‘unwind’ into retirement!
Working where it matters
Lawyers are trained in using language – both spoken and written – persuasively and I hope to bring my experience of that into school. Being able to express your ideas with clarity and impact is a valuable skill and a powerful confidence-builder that is capable of benefiting students in school, the workplace, higher education and in their lives generally.
I am going to be training at a lovely secondary school in a disadvantaged part of London, where the staff are completely dedicated to improving the life opportunities of their students and are very ambitious for them. I am enormously inspired by that and very happy that I am going to be spending the last 10 years or so of my working life helping with the development of young people – something that I have always found very rewarding. Learning new skills and being taken out of my comfort zone is also something that excites me – the last thing I feel I want right now is a slow ‘unwind’ into retirement!