While it may not always seem obvious, the private sector can be a natural precursor to the classroom. Some of the most important skills learned in the workplace – including leadership, time management, communication and organisation – can prove invaluable in an educational setting.
For example, experience gained working on time-sensitive projects can help trainee teachers adhere to a schedule of planning and marking deadlines. Many of us are used to giving regular presentations, and this will have built strong communication skills which are vital for delivering effective and engaging lessons to a class. And those in positions of responsibility may have had the opportunity to manage teams and develop leadership skills; an imperative quality for teachers.
This matters because teaching may be the perfect next step for motivated career changers with an interest in education, and with redundancies a tough reality in an ever-changing economy, employees are often looking for direction in their next steps. Individuals can still have plenty to offer in another position – and that could be in a classroom.
There is often a certain view of what a teacher should look like in our minds – but this simply isn’t true. Students come from all walks of life, and so too should teachers. We all remember listening to a teacher and wondering how what they were telling us would prove useful in the real world; some of the best teachers know how to bring their life experiences into the classroom to contextualise learning for students. This can help ensure they remain engaged in learning and understand how to apply their potential in the wider world.
Rapport in the classroom is essential for building strong relationships with students and it can be easier when teachers have a few stories to tell from their own life experience. Time spent on projects, on tasks or in everyday situations will give students an exciting insight into why they need to learn their subject. Experience working to targets, timelines and with different types of people will also help provide teachers with confidence in managing a class and ensuring students receive the maximum benefit from each lesson.
Julia Pickering worked as a metallurgist for around 13 years, in both an independent specialist business and a larger research-based company, before training to teach mathematics. She says making the leap into education was one of the best decisions she ever made: “Teaching is hard work, there is no doubt about it, but it is also a career where you can make a tangible difference and be recognised for doing so”. She also highlighted the opportunities for progression and how she was able to put the skills learned in a previous career to use, both in the classroom and the school as a whole.
Transition to Teach is a new initiative funded by the Department for Education, offering an entirely free service to encourage and support career changers as they train to teach. The team can advise on the different routes into teaching, along with helping with queries around financial support while training, and any other advice needed. And whether they’ve been out of the classroom for a few years or even a few decades, there is a bespoke package to support participants from their initial application through to the end of their first year as a newly qualified teacher.
Lucy Buxton is marketing and promotions coordinator at Cognition Education