At BEC Teacher Training we know many people who are asking themselves whether to make the career change and train to become a teacher. Here Essex based History teacher Pat John shares with us his personal journey into teaching and his reflections on the satisfaction his change of career has brought him.
Shortly after getting married I was standing with my wife on the beach at Lake Wanaka in New Zealand on our honeymoon when we first talked about my switching from journalism and public relations to train to become a teacher. The peace and tranquillity of the mirrored lake at Wanaka was abruptly shattered when I first mentioned it; after all I had spent the last 17 years working long hours, travelling frequently and at short-notice to build my career in a highly competitive industry and had just got to a point where we were comfortable and I had what passed for job security but, as we stood with our feet in the water on the other side of the world, I was essentially floating the idea of chucking it all in and starting again – timing was never my strong point with public relations!
However, for the last three or four years of my career, I felt like I had been cruising and the projects I was being offered all felt quite similar, there wasn’t much in the way of challenge or excitement. I had loved History at school and university and had fully intended to train to become a teacher after graduating, but got sidetracked by the offer of £50 a week to write sports reports for the Tottenham Weekly Post (a small fortune to any student in 1999) so I put teaching to one side while I focused on journalism.
It seems ironic that having worked so hard in a highly competitive industry for so long to earn the right to bark orders and instructions across newsrooms and offices that I should submit myself to starting again as a trainee, and believe me when I say it was difficult to sit on a school chair in a classroom on the first day of my PGCE Induction being told by an assistant headteacher what was expected of me. However, you also have to believe me when I say that I haven’t regretted my decision for a single second (I say “my” decision, I should say that I have a very patient and understanding wife!). For the first time in a long time I genuinely enjoy each and every day at work – it’s hard, it’s long hours, it’s mentally and physically demanding, but it’s also hugely enjoyable and rewarding.
Perhaps the best thing about teaching as a second career is that I still use the skills I developed writing for newspapers, radio and television on a day-to-day basis. Teaching always demands that you think of new and innovative ways to engage young people in learning so my writing has had to develop to reflect this. Public relations teaches you a great deal about diplomacy, tact and judgement – you have to keep calm when the national newspapers are on the phone asking for a statement on a story, and you have to remain calm when trying you realise your beautifully planned lesson on the Long Parliament in the 1600s to Year 7 is met with a roomful of blank faces!
It sounds trite to say it out loud, especially as I’m writing this on a Sunday morning when I should be sat with my feet up watching Wales once again promise much, but disappoint in the Six Nations, but I have truly loved every minute of my teaching career so far. I can’t think of a job that challenges and frustrates more or has the capacity to leave you utterly exhausted, but I also can’t tell you of any job that will make you laugh harder or longer, allow you to build strong relationships or give you more satisfaction. Whatever job you have been doing can not compare to teaching, my strongest advice is that you try it, you won’t regret it.
We really enjoyed reading Pat’s account and we’d love to hear your own stories about your reasons for choosing teaching as a career. If you’re thinking of training to become a teacher, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact Christine at [email protected] to join the conversation