From corporate lawyer to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2018
Where: Ark Walworth Academy
My parents moved to Birmingham from Bangladesh when I was eight. With their encouragement, I managed to get through a failing comprehensive with good A levels in maths, physics and chemistry and studied law at university. I then spent 20 years in the corporate legal world. I was passionate about developing and promoting diversity in the workplace, and I did lots of mentoring.
‘But gradually my passion for being a City lawyer started to decrease. Since the financial crisis, I’d been concerned that social diversity in the City wasn’t just falling but going backwards. I realised you need to reach people from diverse backgrounds much earlier to set them on the right track to a career such as law. I had met Now Teacher’s founder Lucy Kellaway and thought my firm could support it as an initiative but in the end, I decided to join them myself!
I realised that beyond the day-to-day teaching I could also help them with careers advice.
Taking time to make the decision
I spent a year making my decision to become a teacher. In September 2017 I went to a Now Teach information event where I learnt all about the programme; they were really encouraging. Now Teach place people in tougher schools and if I wanted to make a big change and help students from socially diverse backgrounds then that was the kind of school I wanted to go to.
With their help I spent time in an academy in January and did a few more visits before Easter observing and also having a go at presenting. I was keen to ensure that I could interact with the students. I presented a careers talk to the sixth formers who lapped it up. I realised that beyond the day-to-day teaching I could also help them with careers advice. About 75 per cent of the academy’s students are from ethnic minorities and mostly from the nearby estates. They aren’t lacking in aspiration but they have no clear idea what jobs they can do nor concrete ideas of how to bring their dreams to fruition.
I resigned and started as a trainee at the academy in September 2018 and have my own class of Year 9s and teach Year 11s. I work alongside an experienced teacher but I also take one class a week on my own. One of the advantages of Now Teach is that you are only in school four days a week, so I spend Fridays working on my two PGCE assignments through Goldsmiths College in London.
Throwing yourself in at the deep end
Once you’ve committed you need to throw yourself in at the deep end, but you really learn by doing. There’s a network of support from senior teachers who are always checking in on my lessons and I have an assigned tutor. I’ve found handling the disruptive behaviour the biggest challenge but it is about gaining the students’ trust. I’m already becoming stricter than I anticipated, as you quickly realise that if you aren’t, there’s no basis on which to teach.
Having built a good career before, you know you have the intellectual ability but now you worry about not having the expertise. The real test is one of character. Are you a realist about the school environment? Change isn’t immediate and if you can only get through to a handful of students, you might need to adapt your expectations.
I want to set pupils on the right path and help them fulfil their aspirations.
Inspiring future generations
I have three children aged 9, 11, and 15 and when I told them I was training to become a teacher they exclaimed, “But I thought being a lawyer was a good job and well paid?” Now they ask if I have figured out how to use a white board! As a trainee I have learnt not to rely too much on the lesson resources. The trick is to keep things simple and not try and do ten things at a time. One slide at a time will do! Also, I’m learning not to over plan my lessons and cram too much into the hour. You need to allow for flexibility as not everything goes to plan.
Learning a new job is a skill in itself. Teaching is energetic, and double lessons can be tough if there is bad behaviour. But I’ve had plenty of good lessons and when the pupils are engaged then it’s absolutely worthwhile. It’s still early days and I know there will be more and more of them.
For me, becoming a teacher was also about engaging with the kids outside of lessons. I want to organise work experience or day trips into the City to inspire them. Many of the pupils have never met people like me or even been in an office before. I want to set them on the right path and help them fulfil their aspirations.