Andrew Welch is a trainee geography teacher at Ark Globe Academy in south London. Andrew is part of the first Now Teach cohort. In association with Ark Teacher Training, Now Teach is designed for experienced career changers looking to reapply their skills to the classroom.
Andrew talks about his decision to go in to teaching as a second career and the challenges and highlights of the year so far.
This time last year I was six months into retirement and had just undertaken a week’s observation at a secondary school in Edgware. I’d made the decision to join Now Teach earlier in the year and was spending some time in a school to make sure I had a better understanding of what life was like in a modern classroom.
From then until now, I can’t quite believe I’m already in the summer term, about to finish my first year of teaching. It’s gone incredibly quickly but I still feel I have a long way to go!
Prior to embarking on my new career, I was a police officer for almost 32 years. I spent 27 years in Specialist Operations at New Scotland Yard, with six years stationed overseas in France, Belgium and north Africa in a liaison role. Having been in the Metropolitan Police for so long, it’s been challenging to go back to being at the bottom of the rung, not knowing how to do anything. It’s been a humbling experience and certainly knocked my confidence.
My decision to train to teach didn’t come completely out of the blue. In the mid-eighties, just after I’d completed my geography degree at Keble College, Oxford, I was at a loose end before joining the police force. My former geography teacher knew that I had just got my degree and asked if I wanted to go back to cover a term’s teaching at my old school. It was really tough – I was literally given some text books and told to get on with it! I’d always thought that one day I should learn to do it properly, so 34 years later, here I am! My daughter did teacher training straight out of university, so she was another inspiration that encouraged me to finally have a go at it.
Now Teach seemed like a great option for me. Having retired from a high-pressure job, the idea of being able to do a 4-day week appealed to me; it would allow me to redress the work-life balance that had become skewed over the years whilst also tackling a new career. I’d seen Lucy Kellaway talk about the launch of the programme and she was very persuasive and, of course, inspiring. Now Teach seemed like a good route for me to take to join like-minded individuals as we all embark on a brand new career together. It’s been a pleasure to be part of the first cohort of Now Teach – it’s a fantastic group of people and it’s been great to meet everyone.
I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from the Now Teach team and Ark Teacher Training. It has definitely been tough and I’ve had good and bad days. There has been a lot to take in over the past nine months. From the weekly training sessions, to my classroom practice, to the one-to-one planning with my tutor, it’s a lot to think about and there a very few quick wins or easy fixes, but the support available has been great and helped me get through the year.
There are certainly transferable skills I’ve been able to take from my career in the police into my new role in the classroom. Resilience is the obvious one, but I’ve also used my communication skills, negotiation tactics and the power of persuasion. My ability to remain calm under pressure has also been very beneficial. One thing I underestimated was how organised you have to be as a teacher. I haven’t quite mastered that yet, and it’s something I’m looking forward to working on next year!
A stand-out highlight was when one of my 11 year old students came up to me to tell me that he liked geography and in his spare time he was reading a book about global issues, which is what we were studying in class at the time, written by award-winning journalist John Pilger. It was great to see the impact I could have on a young person’s life.
Unquestionably, the best thing about becoming a teacher is the students. All the interactions you have both in the classroom and around the school, developing the relationships with them and getting to know them better, it’s been fantastic.
If you’re in a similar position to me and considering a career in teaching, I’d say go for it. It’ll be tough, but it’s all worthwhile for those moments.
The impact teachers have on children is enormous. After all, the job of a teacher is to educate, inspire and cultivate the next generation. The right teacher can transform students into leaders and thinkers that will have a positive impact on the world. Beth, our current Campus Ambassador at the University of Oxford, sat down with Harvey Aspeling-Jones, an Oxford graduate and trainee science teacher currently in his first year with Ark Teacher Training. They discussed some of the myths around a career in teaching, and why he choose to train with Ark.
Beth: How did you get into teaching?
Harvey: I studied Biochemistry at Oxford, and graduated in 2009. After I left, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so went into random jobs. I worked for two years as a project manager but after a while I decided I wanted to use my degree to do something worthwhile rather than just working for money. Originally, I went down the research route and studied a masters and PhD at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I realised that I enjoyed the teaching aspect of academia more than anything else so thought teaching was a sensible route. I researched School Direct teacher training programmes and came across Ark Teacher Training. Now I am training to be a science teacher at Ark Globe Academy in Elephant and Castle, south London.
What is the biggest myth people have about teaching which you want to challenge?
People don’t realise the amount of skill that goes into teaching, and how much a teacher is doing. What you see when you step behind the curtain is just how much work the teacher is doing to make sure that all the students are engaged, they all understand what is being taught and that they’re really starting to develop a deeper understanding. There is a lot of manipulation going on that you don’t realise until you’re doing it. When the teacher is stood in front of the class, the student assumes he is just talking but it is a much more interactive process. If it was easy, why bother with teacher training?
Do you find living in London on a ‘teacher’s salary’ sufficient?
I didn’t go into teaching for money – I don’t think anyone does – but I’m not struggling. I feel like I am getting a good deal given the amount of teaching I do and the amount of training I get and the fact that my school are paying for my training. I never feel like I’m not getting paid enough.
What attracted you to Ark Teacher Training?
Ark offered more than any other training programmes that I looked at. It was clear that Ark had an established programme with a clear structure of what your training year would look like.
But it was more than just the stats on the amount of training I was going to get, (which are great by the way!), it was also the ethos behind Ark. I was attracted to Ark’s sense of purpose around tackling education inequality by providing a high quality of education to young people who were previously missing out on that, and giving them the opportunities they wouldn’t normally have. It’s nice that at my school there is a real sense of everyone being there for the same reason.
I also like that there is a positive openness in the staff room and a good level of understanding about the strains of teaching in these conditions. Our senior leaders do a great job of recognising both the emotional and time demands on teaching in this context. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to lie or cover up how I’m feeling, if I’m struggling or need extra support.
What was the biggest shock when you started teaching? Was it more challenging than you realised?
I knew it was going to be hard – everyone told me it was going to be hard – but teaching anywhere is a tough job. I did find dealing with challenging behaviour trickier than I thought I would though. Every class will start testing the boundaries after a while and it can be quite difficult and demoralising at times, but the support from my school and Ark Teacher Training means that at no point have I felt like people have been criticising me for the behaviour that happens in my classroom. Expectations are set at the right level for the trainees – you’re never made to feel like you’re failing if behaviour disrupts your lesson.
What would you say to people who are thinking about a career in teaching but aren’t sure?
I have done a number of things, but this has been by far the most rewarding. Even if I have a day of classes which feel to me like a complete disaster, when I get it right and you can see that kids are grasping something important – it’s a great feeling and I don’t know where else you would get that. To anyone thinking about it as a career, get yourself into a school, talk to teachers, observe what they’re doing, see it from the other side of the curtain, it’s very different than it is sometimes portrayed.
Inspired by Harvey’s story? Train to teach with Ark Teacher Training and you too can make a real difference where it matters most.
Current Ark Teacher Training trainee Rachael traded in her freelance career to retrain as a primary teacher in West London. Here she talks about her decision to teach, the highs, the lows and how ultimately it’s all worth while.
This time last year I was working from my family home in north-west England, illustrating e-learning courses for a local NHS training project and volunteering in my local community. It was also around this time that I started filling out my application for Ark Teacher Training. Now, I’ve moved to London and am teaching year one at Ark Byron Primary Academy.
I studied Theology at the University of Exeter and become a freelance illustrator after I graduated. I’ve grown up volunteering in a variety of organisations, predominantly focused on improving the lives of young people, so a transition into teaching made sense to me.
Teaching is such a privilege; you are a key influence in the lives of children. I was fortunate enough to have an upbringing which gave me the foundation of ambition, self-confidence and curiosity. I wanted to be able to give that to others and teaching felt like the perfect way to do that.
The School Direct route suited me; not only did it bring the financial benefits of providing me with a salary, but I also like the routine of working full-time. It also makes me a better teacher – I’m able to put theory into practice every day. I can immediately try out everything I’ve been taught in a classroom setting.
I’m lucky, there’s so much I’ve been able to bring into the classroom from my previous roles. As well as experience volunteering with young people, my time-management and creative skills have been particularly beneficial. I felt better equipped to balance the broad range of demands placed upon me from both training and teaching. I’ve also been able to use my creativity to plan exciting lessons, create interesting displays and come up with different ways to engage the children in learning.
Balancing my time between training, planning and teaching can feel a little overwhelming. The course is rigorous, but putting the work in is worth the outcome. There is nothing more satisfying than successfully teaching a lesson you’ve planned using all the skills and techniques you have been practising and preparing for.
My advice to anyone considering a career in teaching? It can seem a little scary, especially when people are always telling you what a tough job it is, but it is thoroughly worth it. I’ve been incredibly supported throughout the process and everyone at Ark Teacher Training and in my school has helped me to manage a work-life balance.
Children are great – don’t ever lose sight of why you want to teach. I had a particularly challenging student in my Phonics class last term. I spent a lot of time and energy getting to know this child, putting behaviour management techniques in place, trying to minimise disruption, but it was tough. On the last day of term I was leaving early for a training session, this student broke down crying. I went over to check everything was ok and they replied “‘You’ve learnt enough already Miss Gillies, I don’t want you to go!” In that moment all the hard work was worth it, especially when I discovered they had progressed three levels in their Phonics.
Seeing and working with the children every day reminds me, particularly at challenging points, why I am doing what I am doing.
Want to join Rachael in transforming lives in the classroom? Find out how you can apply to train to teach with Ark.
Like many of my peers on the Ark Teacher Training programme, before starting at Ark Swift Primary Academy in September, I had no classroom experience. Prior to starting my teacher training I had been an officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps for six years. This was a job that I had loved almost every moment of, so when the time came to move on, like any good officer, I sat down to analyse the parts of the job that I wanted to take forward into my new career. Essentially it boiled down to three things; working with people every day, leadership, and a having a career with a strong sense of purpose. Clearly all three are captured within being a teacher, but it is the final point, the sense of purpose, that made Ark really stand out to me. I have no doubt, thinking about the children in our classroom, that if we do our jobs to the best of our ability then will change what the future has to offer them.
Being in the classroom from day one has meant that I have been able to develop a deep understanding of each of my pupil’s individual (and often hilarious) personalities. I have seen the amazing amount of progress that children have made throughout the term. One child, having gone from being unable to read basic three letter words, now sits firmly in the middle of her peer group. As a result her confidence in all areas of school life has visibly grown, which is heart-warming to see.
One of the best aspects of training with Ark is the relationship that you build with your classroom coach. Being with them daily means that you receive a wealth of informal coaching and feedback and get to tackle errors or misconceptions far earlier than you otherwise might. One important lesson I learnt – never ask a child to pass you what they were playing with, it might just end up being a small, green, bogey!
There have been some challenging times over the last term. As a career changer I think the most difficult thing to come to terms with is the fact that I was used to operating in an environment where I had achieved a certain level of confidence and now find myself firmly back in the novice category. Preaching to the children about errors being a part of learning has been something that I’ve also had to take on board myself.
Despite any testing times, there has genuinely not been a moment where I have questioned my decision to transfer into teaching. This ultimately comes back to the sense of purpose that comes from working with a group of like-minded individuals who are truly invested in the outcomes of our children. When you are feeling a little tired first thing on a Monday morning and you see your pupils come racing across the playground, trying to be the first one in, raring to go, you can’t help but smile and look forward to the day ahead.
Inspired by Rachel’s story? Find out how you can join us in transforming lives through education.
I originally started teaching English as a foreign language. I taught primary-aged students overseas in a number of countries, including Spain and Brazil.
I took my TEFL qualification when I finished university as I wanted to travel and this seemed like a good way to do it. I ended up finding I really enjoyed teaching and wanted to do my PGCE and get the qualifications.
I chose Ark Teacher Training because I really liked the structure of the programme. It seemed very professional and was led by experts. There is a clear emphasis on training and support throughout the two-year programme. I knew I’d be supported and not just thrown into the classroom!
Summer school provided us with lots of information and all of it was really useful. The simple things were the most interesting and beneficial for me, such as how to plan a lesson. It was all broken down into easy steps and wasn’t intimidating at all.
I’ll be teaching at Ark Chamberlain Primary Academy in Birmingham and I got to visit the school last term as part of the school orientation offered by Ark Teacher Training. It was really helpful to see the school in action and meet everyone I’d be working with.
I already have experience in a classroom from my EFL teaching, but now I’m excited to get in my new classroom and build on my existing experience.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher. Mainly for three reasons:
- I loved my geography teacher at school. He inspired me and I wanted to be like him.
- I want to do a job where I can make a difference in people’s lives.
- I didn’t want an office job. I wanted to be excited by my role. I wanted something fulfilling where every day was different.
I decided to go straight into my teacher training after graduating this summer because I knew what I wanted to do and was just keen get out there and get on with it! I knew I wanted to teach, so why wait?
I was lucky enough to get some school experience whilst I was still at university. I started regularly volunteering at my local school during my free periods and got to know the school and the students. I also attended an Insight Day organised by Ark Teacher Training at Ark Globe Academy in south London.
When I was at Globe, I saw first-hand the unparalleled support offered by both the school and Ark Teacher Training. What I really liked about Ark Teacher Training was the opportunity to learn from so many experts. You’re able to get feedback from at least four different great teachers on a regular basis and that will make you a better teacher, and quickly.
Summer school was a great opportunity to start to understand how everything links together. The subject specific sessions have been really helpful as well. I’m not too far removed from my subject having studied it at university, but it was a handy reminder.
I am looking forward to my first day and just seeing how it will go. I know not everyone day will go well, but I’m prepared for the challenge to try again the next day. I’m hoping to make my students love geography as much as I do and am really ready to get started now.
I had a crisis around my 25th birthday. I was working in sales and wasn’t getting any job satisfaction. I wanted to do something worthwhile and working with young people seemed like a natural choice.
I’ve been working at Ark Putney Academy as a Teaching Assistant for a year. When I decided I wanted to work with young people, I approached Putney because it was my old school! I still knew some of the teachers and it was a setting I could relate to, it helped that I could picture myself in that school environment.
Being a TA at Putney has been great. I’ve been offered so much support and was always made to feel part of the team. When I first started, I was in awe of the teachers, but then as the year progressed I started to see the value I could add and began to think “I could do this.”
As soon as I started thinking about training to teach, it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. It was a natural progression from what I’d already been doing and everyone at my school was really encouraging.
I’ve felt a lot of support throughout the process. The training programme with Ark sounded great and it was very clear. I knew exactly what the route would be and what it would look like.
I’m looking forward to putting what I learnt at summer school into practice. Prior to starting my training, I would just imitate what other teachers did, now I already have a better understanding of the theory behind teaching. There’s no doubt it was incredibly helpful having been a TA for a year, but summer school has been a great crash course, I feel like I’ve learnt everything I need to know to get started!
Teaching is such a rewarding career and I love working with children. I love seeing the expression on someone’s face when they finally understand something that they have been struggling with and knowing I’ve helped them achieve that.
I was struck by Ark’s social mission. I had previously volunteered with another educational charity which shared a similar social mission of reducing social inequality. This inspired me to pursue a career that would also provide opportunities for all children, regardless of background.
The wealth of support that Ark offers to teachers in their training year and beyond really stood out to me against all over training providers. Ark also offers a large number of schools to train in across England which gave me the flexibility to train in a place that suited both me and the school.
I studied music at the University of Bristol and was involved in the music society ensembles. I was initially torn between working in the marketing industry or teaching, but after part-time jobs in both sectors I realised that I felt more passionately about teaching.
I really enjoyed being able to meet like-minded people at summer school who were just as passionate about Ark’s social mission. Practising teaching techniques and learning efficient planning structures made me feel prepared for September.
I’m excited to meet my students and help them foster an appreciation of music. I’m also looking forward to being involved in extra-curricular opportunities like running music ensembles. I feel very lucky to be training to teach in an outstanding school among expert teachers.
Prior to starting my training with Ark, I was a Captain in the British Army Intelligence Corps. During my service, I worked with vulnerable people from across the world. What I witnessed during my time in Helmand, Afghanistan, was a society where children were born into mostly hopeless futures. Futures where basic security was absent, hospital care limited and education nonexistent for most. At home in Britain, I can think of no career more rewarding than one that is dedicated towards offering a fair chance and future for our next generation.
While there are many other teacher training providers, for me, Ark’s mission of giving every young person, regardless of background, a great education meant that I could take forward the sense of purpose I had serving in the Army into my next career.
Having just finished summer school, what really stood out the most were my fellow trainees and the sense of camaraderie that quickly developed; being with a like-minded group of people, with an assortment of fantastic achievements already behind them, was very inspiring. As a complete teaching novice I found the training that we received was easily digestible and hugely supportive.
Now that September is here, I am looking forward to taking the techniques and lessons from summer school forward into the classroom and really getting to know my year ones.