From corporate lawyer to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2018
Where: Ark Walworth Academy
My family moved to Birmingham from Bangladesh when I was eight. With their encouragement and support from some fantastic teachers, I managed to get through a failing comprehensive with A levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry and went on to study Law at university.
I then spent over 20 years in the corporate legal world. I was passionate about developing and promoting diversity in the workplace, and I did lots of mentoring, etc. But gradually my passion for being a City lawyer started to decrease. Since the financial crisis, I’d become increasingly concerned that social diversity in the City wasn’t just stalling but possibly going backwards. I realised that you need to reach people from diverse backgrounds much earlier to set them on the right track for a career such as law. I met Lucy Kellaway, co-founder of Now Teach, and initially thought that my firm could support the initiative, but in the end I decided to join it 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 about a year exploring the option of becoming a teacher. In October 2017 I went to a Now Teach information event where I learnt more 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.
Now Teach arranged for me to spend a week at an academy in January and I made a few more visits before Easter – observing lessons and also having a go at doing some teaching. I was keen to ensure that I could establish a connection with the students. I also gave 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 their career choices. About 75 per cent of the academy’s students are from ethnic minorities and mostly from the nearby housing estates. They aren’t lacking in aspiration, but they often don’t have a clear idea of what certain jobs or professions are like and what steps they will need to take to bring their dreams to fruition.
I resigned and started as a trainee at the academy in September 2018. I was given my own class of Year 9 students from the start. Since then, my teaching load has been gradually increased and I am now also teaching students in Years 7, 10 and 11. 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 PGCE assignments through Goldsmiths College in London.
Throwing yourself in at the deep end
Once you’ve committed you have to throw yourself in at the deep end – the best way to learn is by doing. There’s a network of senior teachers who are available to provide support and they will often drop by to observe my lessons. I also have an assigned tutor. I’ve found handling disruptive behaviour the biggest challenge, but it is about gaining the students’ trust and doing everything you can to support and motivate them. 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.
Professionals who are considering changing career will have the intellectual capability to be able to refresh their knowledge of the subject they choose to teach. However, the real test will be one of character and resilience – it’s essential that you are a “realist” who understands the school environment. Change isn’t immediate and it will take time to make an impact on students and see tangible results of your efforts.
I want to set pupils on the right path and help them fulfil their aspirations.
Inspiring future generations
I have three children – a daughter, aged 12, and twin boys, aged 10. When I told them I was training to become a teacher, one of them exclaimed, “But I thought being a lawyer was a good job and better paid?” Now they ask if I have figured out how to use an interactive white board! As a trainee I have learnt not to rely too much on the lesson resources. The key is to keep things simple and be flexible so that you can respond to how the students are progressing. 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 and day trips to 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.