From investment banker to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2018
Where: The Greenwich Free School
I studied French at university with the express intent of becoming a teacher. I even spent a year in France teaching, but when I graduated, my friends in teaching put me off. It was the late 1970s and they told me, “Teaching is changing, you’ll hate it.” I believed them, and ended up jumping ship into the City. I became a corporate stockbroker and investment banker.
During my career, I spent 14 years as a classroom volunteer for a charity. The idea was people from big companies went into the East End of London to give kids an idea what life would be like in commerce. I really enjoyed it, then, reaching my early 60s, thought it was time to retire. I thought I’d look for something marginally less stressful than teaching, but felt it was important to improve the education of our youth. Looking at the stats, I saw there were fewer language teachers than before, too.
Dealing with pre-school nerves
I told my firm in May 2017 that I’d see out the year before leaving. I thought, “It would be very nice to get into teaching if there were a convenient route that didn’t mean I had to go back to university with 19 year olds,” and that’s when I remembered reading about Now Teach. I half-filled in the application form, but they called me, saying, “Would you like to complete it?” which shows you how efficient they are.
The days leading up to the start of term were slightly sweaty-palmed. During the first few days of the school you’re in a tsunami. The amount of stuff you have to absorb and deal with is astounding, but in a way that’s good.
Certainly, it does feel like death by a thousand acronyms – the educational world loves them!
Teaching’s not “long holidays and short working days” – it’s long working days and short holidays where you can catch up on some sleep!
Coping with a new way of working
What I didn’t expect was the amount of duty and the intensity of the hours – your life is ruled by the bell. I get in just before 7, our kids are let in at 8:05, and the first lesson starts at 8:20. And I’m a form tutor too. It’s bell after bell. I only have 6 classes myself but I teach another 3 and observe a few others. It’s amazing how few hours there are in the day. The first half term was a blur but now things feel slightly clearer. I think the kids were surprised to see me back. They said, “Oh, still here, sir?” The fact that I came back gave me kudos.
I was pretty sure what sort of teacher I was going to be like when I started. Perhaps it’s because of my schooling, there were teachers I didn’t like very much but I remembered their names – so I put up with no nonsense, too. The teaching profession likes to talk about “strong” voice so I’ve developed that. My Year 9s now behave themselves! Because I’ve done a bit of teaching before, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s good to be in a school where discipline is rigorously maintained, so you do have an attempt to teach and I think some schools aren’t like that.
Key advice to pass on
There are lots of skills I’ve been able to bring from my previous career. I had to present and win clients, so presentation skills and the ability to stand and deliver something, that’s all second nature. And spending years managing investment bankers, who are essentially very articulate and clever children – has been very helpful. So there are lots of things quite apart from the careers advice and interview training I can give the students. I love the kids – they are so funny. They are utterly hilarious, but of course you’re not allowed to tell them that. They’re very inventive people.
If someone was considering teaching I’d give them two pieces of advice. The first is to be realistic that you’re going in at the bottom; you’ll know nothing and your previous experience won’t help you at all in the first few weeks. The second is, do not underestimate how different the working day is going to be. You can’t sit back in your chair and drink a coffee before setting off on some work or snooze in a meeting! You’re ruled by the bell and the kids, so it’s full-on relentless. It’s not “long holidays and short working days” it’s basically long working days and short holidays where you can catch up on some sleep!