Why I became a teacher: to engage students in the news and economy

Kevin Abbott is head of faculty, business and modern foreign languages, at Ken Stimpston Community School in Peterborough. He is also chair of the Economics, Business and Enterprise Association. This is an extract from an article in the Guardian on why he became a teacher and why he wants to engage students in the news and the economy…

I did my business studies degree at Loughborough University. While I was doing that I was working part time at Argos and when I left university I became a full time team leader but I wasn’t particularly happy apart from in the really busy periods up to Christmas, the time most people hated. In the end I was bored to tears working in retail. I suppose it comes down to that cliché of wanting to make a difference. My focus at Argos was very much on stock room management. While we had a very tidy stock room, what difference was I making to the world?

I had a first class degree and I heard about the Fast Track teaching programme (which has since been abolished and partially replaced with Future Leaders) which meant extra training, funding and a free digital camera. While I was still at Argos I volunteered in the business studies department of a local secondary school one day a week. I was working one-to-one to support students with difficulties. I found I had a talent to explain difficult concepts to students. I found something I loved doing.

I was initially rejected from the Fast Track teaching programme. After undertaking a series of online tests and assessments, I was followed around by a team of psychologists who rejected me on the basis that I spoke too quickly. It was quite an insult especially because I had extensive speech therapy as child after being born with tongue tie. So I didn’t become a Fast Track Teacher at that time and I missed out on getting the extra money and a free digital camera. However I had been accepted unconditionally on a PGCE course at Warwick University and I got to go to all the Fast Track extra lectures and workshops anyway.

After my PGCE I returned to my home town of Peterborough to teach business studies and economics at Stanground College (now an academy). I got the chance to do some whole staff training and was asked why I wasn’t on Fast Track. I was persuaded to reapply and had to do all assessments and be followed around by psychologists again. I expected the experience to be completely futile but this time I was successful. Instead of a camera I got a free laptop, some very high quality training and fantastic opportunities.

Now I teach business and economics and am also head of faculty at Ken Stimpson Community School in Peterborough. I’m passionate about economics and business studies. For me it’s all about taking a creative approach to the subject. I’m always thinking of ideas and creating resources for my students. Things in the news really inspire me. I used to work ridiculous hours before I had a family but now I’ve got two children I’ve had to rein it in a bit. I know it’s important to have work-life balance, but if I had more time I’d be creating things all the time. It’s never worried me because I love my job so much. I recently had glandular fever but came back to work two weeks earlier than I was meant to. I’m not being a martyr, it’s just what I enjoy.

Extra-curricular activities are key for me even though they take up a lot of time; it’s wholly worth it. I’m the links teacher for our thriving young enterprise team. We have a business advisor from a local company Perkins who comes in to help the students set up their own businesses. Just recently our students learnt how to make bowls out of old vinyl records and have just received an order to make 100 for a local company. It’s such a great experience for the students.

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