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Career Change: Part 2 ~ Why I knew teaching was the right move for me

First published on LinkedIn, 3rd February 2019

This is the follow-up to part 1, as you may have guessed due to the presence of the phrase 'Part 2' in the title. That may seem somewhat obvious but, as I have discovered, it pays to repeat the obvious as a teacher. More on that later.

If you've read the first of this three-part series - thank you! I didn't expect to get quite the response I got; it was intended to be a little cathartic diatribe and ended up being viewed over 3'000 times. Okay, I'm not... er... that famous blogger... but I'm starting out. More on that later too.

So do check out the previous article if you haven't read it but it's not compulsory to enjoy this article.

  1. Why I knew I had to get out of the media,

  2. Why I knew teaching was the right move for me, which is this one, and,

  3. Why a career change is not something to be afraid of (coming soon).

I get asked by students "Sir" - and that alone is bloody weird right there. I've never been called 'Sir' and it's odd to actually try and get the attention of other adults and colleagues by saying 'Sir' or 'Miss'. It's not like the real-world at all; nobody in media was ever that polite - either genuinely or for appearances. Anyway, I get asked by students "Sir, why did you become a teacher?"

I have a momentary doubt that there is something I've really, really ballsed up and it's not so much an inquiry as an accusation, but then I remember that, even the Sixth Formers, don't have sufficient nuance in their communication to make that difference. My answer is almost always;

"I became a teacher because I like the sound of my own voice and telling people what to do. So shut up and get on with your work."

There's no smoke without fire of course but it's normally an aside that ensures they are carrying on with the task they should be doing. But it does often spark a moment of self-reflection. Why did I decide to get into teaching?

The reality is, in my case, I wanted to start a side hustle whilst working in the media. I had recently got a bike and, having subscribed to loads of technology and design email newsletters, I kept noticing amazing cycling gadgets (Hovding is perhaps the best named, Blaze / Beryl, before they got big with the TfL contract, and numerous others). My first idea was to launch a cycling gadget retailer and I had signed up to do a Start-Up MBA over a couple of weekends with Escape the City. The MBA was useful although the promise of pitching to investors at the end wasn't quite true - they were investors alright but they weren't bringing a potential investment in your business with them.

I started the business and made a couple of sales but soon realised that I needed a major cash injection to make it work and cooled on the idea. However, in my research into what business to start and how to go about it, I stumbled across Effective Altruism and it made me question what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Their research and the writing of Malcolm Gladwell, specifically Outliers, made me start posing questions of myself - if, according to EA, we work roughly 80'000 hours in an average lifetime and, according to Gladwell, it takes 10'000 hours of practice to become an expert, it made me wonder whether someone could have up to 8 different successful careers in that time.

Perhaps the idea was a little naïve but I looked at my career and realised that I had worked since I was 21 and could feasibly go on until 66 - although, like most of us, I hope I can arrange my finances so that I can retire early. That meant I had 45 years of work and had 'used up' 15 in media. I still had two thirds of my working life left - and if I don't enjoy what I'm doing and I don't see the value in it, what's the point?

I'm not sure where I heard it but someone once said that a great mantra to live your life is; In the first 30 years, learn all you can learn. In the next 30 years, earn all you can earn. In the final 30 years, give it all away.

I like the vagueness of the final sentence - give away your money or give away your knowledge..? Anyway, that stuck with me and made me wonder what I had actually learned in the media? Self-confidence, PowerPoint skills, communication, sales and pitching, sure - had I learned how to develop meaningful relationships, improve the lot of those less fortunate, any particularly new or valuable skills? Definitely not. The meaningful relationships I am grateful for may have, in some cases, started through our respective careers but they have developed over time and through a variety of interactions, not simply a shared workplace.

Worst of all is the looming inevitability that humans are no longer needed in media. With the growth of automation, 'Advertising Sales Agents' score 54% likely that their jobs will be taken by robots. Compare that with 'Secondary School Teachers'; 1% chance! That said, considering how many times I've said 'Date and title, please' or 'Write your assessments in the back of your book', for the students in question to ignore the instructions entirely or ask me ten minutes later what they're doing, I sometimes wonder whether a robot might be best placed to do that part of the job.

I didn't know that I wanted to be a teacher straight away, after having read a few articles, but I did know what I was looking for. Media, like many industries, is geographically limiting; London, mainly, with recent developments in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Leeds. I've never been happy living within boundaries established by others. A new career would need to enable me to move if I so desire. Bad experiences with being mis-sold jobs or, even worse, being made redundant regardless of ability or success made me seek out a career that I thought came with some level of stability. That's not to say I wanted to go into a role that I could cruise along at without being noticed or do the bare minimum; in fact, I hope(d) that many of my contemporaries would be thinking that way so that I could rise through the ranks with a work ethic and eye for detail that my previous jobs had helped me improve...

Try Googling 'international career'+'stable job'+'£50k+ per annum'... Of the very few viable options that come up, I would have had to have qualifications and/or experience that comes after two or three years. Teaching, as an option, had come up on my radar and I had been actively exploring it as a solution.

Aside from it being a great way to earn a respected, transferable qualification (PGCE), for me it was the combination of;

  • providing true value to someone,

  • the potential to build new relationships with different and interesting people,

  • geographic freedom to move where I need/want to,

  • long-term security within the career, and,

  • a distinct lack of androids poised to usurp me!

Now I've been in the sector for two years, I can say that I'm thoroughly enjoying it. There are good days and bad, of course, and challenges are mental, physical, pastoral, pedagogical, and much more. Long may that continue!


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