The Tes reports that this weekend, teachers across the country will be preparing to return to school after the October half term. For many of them, stepping back into the classroom will be second nature by now. But spare a thought for 46 very green trainees who will be doing it for the first time – no doubt with some trepidation.
This is the first cohort of Now Teach. The brainchild of former Financial Times journalist Lucy Kellaway and social entrepreneur Katie Waldegrave, the programme functions like a reverse Teach First, enabling experienced professionals who have built successful careers in other occupations to move into teaching. In September, Now Teach placed 46 trainees into challenging London secondary schools.
What makes someone want to give up a well-paid, high-status job to suffer the slings and arrows of being a teacher? And how have those on the programme fared during their first weeks in the classroom?
Lynda Burns, 42, is a former diplomat and the youngest person on the programme. Phong Dinh, 46, used to work as a lawyer and financial consultant and Howard Smith, 50, spent 25 years working in the City as a trader. Just as their backgrounds differ, so do the paths which brought them to Now Teach.
Sitting in an empty classroom at Bolingbroke Academy in south London, where he’s teaching maths, Dinh says becoming a teacher was always on his agenda. “I originally planned that I was going to leave finance and go into teaching in my fifties,” he says. But this was accelerated “by a good 10 years” when he saw an article by Kellaway in the FT, urging middle-aged professionals to quit the rat race and follow her into teaching.
Dinh says he always intended to go into teaching eventually because he’d enjoyed the bits of his previous two careers which involved “gaining knowledge and then passing it on”. But his interest in education goes deeper than that.
So what has been most challenging for the Now Teachers? “It’s definitely the behaviour of the students,” Burns replies immediately. “The teaching side is not the problem – it’s dealing with the behaviour so you can do the teaching.” She’s learned that teaching is above all about multi-tasking. “It’s a bit like driving,” she says. “You’re walking round the room, pen in hand, your other hand is pointing at people who are talking, your mouth is saying something different and you’ve got your beady eye on the one at the back who is writing on his desk.”
On Monday, the Now Teachers will go back to their classrooms, returning to a very different environment to where they’ve spent most of their careers. “There’s a certain amount of glamour in an FCO career,” Burns admits. “When you’re abroad you’re drinking champagne under a chandelier for a living.” That doesn’t seem a likely prospect in the staff room.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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