From financial services to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2018
Where: Ark Putney Academy
I actually thought about going into teaching a long way back – before I even started on my first career. Instead, I chose a different route and worked in financial services for 35 years, primarily for Thomson Reuters. I had a busy management role focusing on tech and financial data, leading teams all over the world. I enjoyed my career – there was a lot of travel, and I lived in Sydney and New York for a time. But I was made redundant at the end of 2016 and so took some time off for myself. I was in two minds about whether I would actually get another job, but ended up deciding I wasn’t ready to retire! I came across Now Teach in the press, and realised it would be a great opportunity to finally get into teaching.
The most useful book I’ve read is ‘Teach Like A Champion’ by Doug Lemov. It’s packed full of very specific, practical techniques you can use in the classroom, and is a great place to start.
Deciding to make the change
I applied at the end of 2017, but at that point wasn’t sure whether it would actually work out. And I may have given up somewhere along the line if it hadn’t been for the support and help from Now Teach. Throughout the application process you attend workshops and interviews, which are heavily structured, and really useful in telling you what it will actually be like. Once I’d been accepted onto the training, and announced my news publicly on social media, there was a huge reaction from people I know. There was an even split between those who were complimentary about my new direction, telling me it was an amazing decision, and those who said, “what on earth are you doing?!”
I’m very early on in my placement as a Physics teacher at a secondary school, and it’s been a challenging first few weeks, with lots of ups and downs. The most difficult thing for me so far has been managing pupils’ behaviour. The positive side is the other staff are very supportive, helpful and constantly saying, you shouldn’t really expect this to go well, you’ve only been teaching for a few weeks! It’s a big adjustment to go from working in an environment where you’re the expert, to being in a school where you’re definitely not at the start.
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve had an awful week. You have to hang on in there and wait until it improves – it takes time.
Accepting advice and feedback
One of the biggest differences I’ve found in teaching compared with other jobs, is the amount of observation that goes on. I was used to getting twice-yearly feedback from my boss which was very formalised, but here it’s a continuous process from other teachers, my coach and head of year who come round and observe my lessons. I was initially a bit worried that it would feel intrusive, but actually it isn’t at all because you want the feedback!
Having immediate advice and ideas on how to deal with certain pupils and your teaching is really helpful. And I know I’m not good at this straightaway – you’re acutely aware of what you don’t know – so I’ve found it a positive process. Teachers are really good at recognising that you need help before you realise it yourself. I haven’t found anyone who isn’t prepared to spend time with me and help.
The pace of teaching is also very different to office life – there’s a lot packed into each day, even when you’re not teaching in the classrooms. It’s a lot of hard work. I heard that story from other people and it’s true – it’s every bit as hard as doing a big corporate job. But don’t be discouraged if you’ve had an awful week. You have to hang on in there and wait until it improves – it takes time.
Enjoying the learning curve
If you’re considering teaching, I’d say absolutely move forward with it and get a better understanding of it before you decide. For me, the most useful advice I got was to spend a bit of time in schools first. I was able to spend two weeks in a school and it was really helpful in picking up the general atmosphere. A lot of the detail washed over me, but I got a good feeling for what the environment is like at a school. I came out each day with a huge smile on my face.
At the moment, everything feels very new and that I’m on a big learning curve. But I’ve already had several moments where I felt lessons went well, the behaviour was good and the kids picked up the content I was trying to teach them. I’ve had some really positive interactions with children, too, where they’re enjoying things and engaging with you. I know that if I can get to the point where a week goes mainly well, I’ll be very happy.