Choosing to teach – career changers taking the plunge

If you’re considering teaching, there is such a wide scope of possibilities in the education sector that you’re sure to find the right fit, with a little advice. The need for mature entrants and the opportunities to move between phases often mean that the profession is highly attractive to those already with extensive work and life experience.

And who best to tell you all about jumping into teaching than those who have already done it?

We caught up with just a few of the professionals who changed career to become teachers in various phases to find out about their experiences of joining, and moving within, the teaching profession…

Dave – the steel specialist who did a PGCE via Schools Direct and is now Head of Humanities

Dave Murrie is a head of humanities, mentor and lead practitioner for teaching and learning:

“I have a love of history and wanted to pass this on. Before becoming a teacher, I worked for Tata Steel for 14 years. I took voluntary redundancy in to do a three-year BA Hons and then a PGCE through Schools Direct. I was in the first cohort of the new Schools Direct.

“Now I’m head of humanities. Becoming a teacher was the best move I ever made. If you want to do it, and are prepared to work, then the rewards are excellent in my opinion.”

Lynda – who went from Chemical Process Manager to Chemistry teacher

For Dr Lynda Cannon, the prospect of a family friendly career was the main driver behind switching careers into teaching…

“Before teaching I worked in the chemical industry. I was a process manager in manufacturing facilities for 16 years. I was attracted to teaching as a career that worked with my family commitments but still allowed me to work in science. I had also enjoyed training apprentices and students as part of my previous career and saw teaching as a route to expand on that. As I already had a degree in chemistry, I completed a 1 year PGDE at university. I now teach chemistry at a local school and have dual qualification in physics.

“I enjoy my job but I can see why it’s not for everyone. It’s hard work and you need to be committed to it. I’d recommend that anyone who is interested in teaching tries it out first at a local school (perhaps observing or shadowing a teacher). When you are a teacher, plan for the week not each day, and spread things out to reduce stress. Ask for help, and go home at least one day a week when the bell goes – without any marking or work to do.”

Sally – who was a midwife before training to be a primary teacher

Sally Howard was a nurse and midwife before training to be a primary teacher. Here, she describes her journey:

“After leaving school I trained at Moorfields eye hospital in London. After a couple of years, I did my State Registered Nurse (SRN) training at Leeds General Infirmary, then moved to Cyprus to work as a full time ‘nanny’ for two young children. During this time, I met my husband and we moved back to the UK where I worked as a staff nurse in the intensive care unit. I then decided to become a Midwife and trained in North Wales.

“While a full time mum I started an Open University degree. I loved this study and think this was a subliminal turning point for me.

“Some time later when I had a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old, I was asked by a local nursery if I could cover the ‘baby’ class of children aged 2-4 as a member of staff. I loved this role of caring and supporting the creative and cognitive development of these children and all of my previous experience was really useful. I enjoyed ‘teaching’ and being a learner, so training to be a primary teacher was a natural next step.

“I took a four-year Bachelor of Education (honours) Primary route and entered at year 2 because of my previous relevant experiences and study. My main specialism was science with secondary specialisms in ‘assessment’, and ‘gender’.

“To my surprise I kept being promoted in school education and soon found myself as a primary head teacher. I then became a part-time senior lecturer and taught on Masters modules for secondary and primary teachers, while also being an education consultant. I worked with Professor Paul Black and Dr Chris Harrison from Kings College on their various projects on assessment for learning (AfL) and co-wrote with Chris Harrison one of the infamous books in ‘Black Box series’.

“I later moved to another Russell Group University as a full time senior lecturer in initial teacher education for primary and early years, then back to Kings College as a research associate and further research work with practicing teachers from secondary, primary and early years settings, coupled with my active role within the Association for Science Education (ASE).

“I am currently half way through my PhD at Oxford Brookes exploring science inquiry with a focus on the transition phases of primary to secondary.

“I still find I draw on my previous career as a nurse and midwife, and my lifetime of experiences gained during the time between leaving school and becoming a teacher. I think it was hugely beneficial to me (and my pupils) that I did not go straight into teaching. My skills in craft and background in nursing have been extremely useful to me then and now.

“If you’re thinking of a career move into teaching, I’d recommend speaking to a range of teachers in different phases of education and get time in as many different schools as you can to get a feel for the reality of teaching. Don’t just assume one phase is better for you than another until you have seen them all action. Teaching is varied not just in phase but in every setting. There is no ‘recipe’. The training period plus the ‘NQT’ year is a challenge both practically and intellectually so set up very good family and friend networks who will understand this and not expect anything from you during this time. However, after this short period, things really do settle down and you are more in control of your own destiny.”

Find out more…

Thinking of making the move into the teaching profession? The Get Into Teaching site may help.


Author: Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth holmes photo

After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.

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