Our Trainees

“This time last year….” – Our trainee teachers share their experiences of their first term

By | Our Trainees

A lot can happen in a year. We spoke to three of our current trainees, Robert, Jenny and Charlie, who this time last year were still working in their previous careers. They talk to us about the highs and lows from their first term of teaching and give their advice to anyone thinking about teaching as a new career.

What were you doing this time last year?

Robert: I was still in my old career in strategy consulting; most likely working until 1 in the morning finishing a 246 page presentation!

Jenny: I had already decided I wanted to teach and was teaching English as a foreign language to secondary students in rural Thailand. I was also enjoying delicious Thai food and exploring the beautiful country at the weekends!

Charlie: I was working in my previous career as a police officer. Although both careers involve challenging circumstances, it was still a big career change for me. It is safe to say though that I am enjoying teaching a lot more though!


What has been your teaching highlight so far?

Robert: Teaching my first full lesson. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, so that helped to settle a lot of nerves.

 Jenny: There have been so many! Recently I got to demonstrate a use of electromagnets in every day life to my year 8s – the circuit breakers in our electric door bells. It was great to see their eyes light up; it’s so rewarding to see their enthusiasm for scientific concepts and demonstrations grow over time. I’m hoping it’s a sign that I’m finally convincing them that science is an exciting subject with so much relevance to their daily lives!

Charlie: Seeing the progress of my students is always a wonderful moment. It’s such a good feeling when you see them learn something new and knowing you taught it to them.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced?

Charlie: It can be slightly overwhelming if you’re having a bad day and your lessons aren’t going well. It’s a challenge to pick yourself up from that and bounce back ready to start the next day afresh.

 Jenny: One of the biggest challenges has been learning how to manage the negative emotions that students can bring into the class with them and how to regulate my own mood when responding to them. I learnt early on that it’s my mood that makes “the weather” in class. During my first half term, the climate in my classroom was very dependent on whether my pupils were having a good day. Since then, I’ve put a lot of effort into building relationships and have got better at recognising warning signs. Now I’ve noticed that I remain a lot calmer when dealing with challenging behaviour. Although I can’t prevent my pupils from arriving at my lesson in a negative emotional state, overall I’m seeing them respond more positively to my interventions.

Robert: It’s been tough to get used to breaking things down into small chunks. There have been many times when the class have lost interest because I’ve assumed they could all take a step that they couldn’t.

What transferable skills from your past career have been useful in teaching so far?

 Charlie: Remaining calm in challenging circumstances is a skill I honed as a police officer, it has also been incredibly useful here. It can sometimes become quite difficult, especially being new, the students can try to test you. But being able to rise above it, stay in control of a situation and learn from each occasion has made each time a little easier.

Jenny: Coming from a high performing team in the Higher Education sector, I recognise the importance of teamwork, building strong relationships with colleagues and offering support. On becoming a teacher, I have recognised that these skills are critical for the running of our school, delivering quality education and ensuring that our pupils achieve great outcomes. A great team spirit among the teaching staff also reflects positively on the pupils. They learn the importance of positive relationships and cooperation skills; important things to develop to prepare for life beyond school.

Robert: My previous career taught me how to manage my time and juggle lots of things at once, which is definitely extremely useful in teaching. Oh, and I can make a mean spreadsheet, which has saved some other teachers a lot of pain at times!

What would be your advice for others considering a career in teaching?

Robert: Go for it. You will find it thrilling and fulfilling. There are kids out there who really need your help.

Charlie: Be prepared to challenge yourself, stay organised and don’t forget to put aside time for yourself each day in order to relax and better prepare for tomorrow.

Jenny: It is one of the toughest things you could consider doing. But from day one you absolutely get out what you put in when it comes to working with children. From helping them understand how electromagnets work, to teaching them how to tie their shoe laces – nothing beats knowing that every day you are making a difference and hopefully making the future of your students a little brighter.

Want to be teaching this time next year? Apply now for September 2019


Rania’s Story

By | Our Trainees

“For me personally, teaching is about being able to give something back, hopefully to many, many students.”

Rania graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2007. Having spent 10 years working in the corporate world, she left in search of a more rewarding career. She is now training to teach maths at Ark Academy in Wembley. When asked why she chose to apply to the Ark Teacher Training programme, she replied:

“What stood out for me was Ark’s ethos. It is all about working with communities that need it the most and really being able to give a good education to all students, regardless of their backgrounds.”

Hear more about Rania’s story by watching the video below. Join Rania and transform lives, including your own. Apply now.

Ibrar’s Story

By | Our Trainees

Ibrar graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Economics and spent six years in the corporate world. He has now swapped his business career to start training to teach Maths at Isaac Newton Academy. He says:

“For me, teaching is quite personal. When I was younger, I had a lot of behavioural issues and my teachers helped me overcome those challenges. I want to have that same positive impact by giving back to the community.”

Hear more about Ibrar’s story by watching the video below. Join Ibrar and transform lives, including your own. Apply now.

Lucy’s Story

By | Our Trainees

“I wanted to do something where I can make a difference.”

Lucy, who graduated from the University of Cambridge last summer, has decided that she would like to use her geography degree to make a difference in the classroom. She is currently training to teach geography at Ark Academy in Wembley. When asked why she chose Ark Teacher Training, she replied:

“I wanted to work in a school where I can have the most impact. I know that I can have more of an impact at Ark Academy than I can working in a state school in a privileged area or even in a private school.”

Hear more about Lucy’s story by watching the video below. Want to join Lucy and make a real difference? Apply now.


Laurence’s Story

By | Our Trainees

Having graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in Biology in 2013, Laurence began teaching English as a foreign language in Vietnam. Now, he is embarking on his teaching career in the UK with Ark Teacher Training at Reach Academy. He says:

“I think that the more you teach, the better you get at it. By being involved in the life of a school for a whole year during my training, I’ll be able to get the right experience to make me a great teacher.”

Hear more about Laurence’s story by watching the video below. Want to join Laurence and make a real difference? Apply now.


“Becoming a teacher has changed my life”

By | Our Trainees

“I can honestly say that teaching has changed my life.”

Georgie, an English teacher at Ark Elvin Academy, has recently graduated from Ark Teacher Training and is now in her NQT year at her school in Wembley. “I came into teaching from a career where I really wasn’t happy. The transformation to now has been incredible. I can’t imagine not being a teacher anymore.”

Georgie is one of the Ark Teacher Training alumni to take part in our brand new video which showcases our two-year School Direct teacher training programme.

Hear more from our trainees, past and present, in our new video. WATCH NOW.

Georgie’s fellow teacher and Ark Teacher Training graduate, Chloe, joined the programme straight after graduating from university. “I wanted to go into teaching after graduating so I could start making a difference straight away. Doing Ark Teacher Training meant I’d be with the students from day one, getting those experiences and progressing from the beginning.”

Chloe, like many new teachers, was worried about managing a class of 30 students, but Ark Teacher Training was there to support her every step of the way: “Ark Teacher Training is such a supportive programme. The number of people who are there to guide you and the amount of training you get helps you become a great teacher. It’s put me in the best possible place I can be to start my career in teaching.”

This time last year, Georgie and Chloe were in the same position as Conrad, a current trainee on the Ark Teacher Training programme, just beginning his career as a primary teacher at Ark King Solomon Academy. “I want to be a teacher so I can have an impact on the lives of children from deprived areas. Being one of the first people in my family to go to university has inspired me a lot. The children I’m working with need role models from their communities to help push them to succeed.”

Conrad, along with the rest of the 2018/19 cohort, spent two weeks at the Ark Teacher Training Summer School in August, preparing to be in the classroom. Trainee maths teacher Charlotte says, “The training so far has given us tips and tricks to help us create a positive learning environment and deliver effective lessons, especially in the first few weeks. It’s given me a great foundation to build on and I feel a lot more confident going into the classroom.”

Inspired by our trainees? Apply now


Six weeks in to teaching…not only am I surviving, I’m loving it!

By | Our Trainees

Robert Millar is about to finish his first half term of teaching, having swapped his career in the City to teach maths to secondary students. How has it gone? Is he enjoying it? And most importantly, did he make the right decision? 

So, how have the first six of weeks of school gone? Not only have I survived, but I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s early days of course, but on top of leaving each day feeling as if I’ve made a difference, so much of what I’ve enjoyed has been rather unexpected.

If I were to pick three things that have stood out, the first would be that working with children is genuinely inspiring and fun. Their curiosity and willingness to learn (not just about maths, but about life) is refreshing. I was surprised at how seriously they take their teachers’ feedback. For example, one of the things I do with my form is to read through the book logs they have to write. When correcting spelling or grammar, I thought they would be annoyed by my pickiness, but they love getting this feedback, and are super keen for me to read what they’ve written. They are also (often unintentionally) funny. My favourite moment so far is when talking about Drama Club, I stopped after reading the phrase “budding thespians” off the slide to ask the class if anyone knew what a thespian was. One student raised his hand and said, “is it when two women marry each other?” Cue stifled giggles from children and staff members alike.

Secondly, I am loving the intellectual challenge of learning a completely different skill. You realise pretty early on that teaching is not as easy as you think it is when observing a skilled teacher’s lessons. There are a million and one things you have to be simultaneously aware of, control, and plan for. As a new trainee, you are assigned both a mentor (who observes you teach and gives you weekly “action steps” to work on) and a co-planner (who helps you plan lessons). I also have the opportunity at school to observe different teachers in my free periods.  This is incredibly useful and I find myself thinking, “oh, that’s how they explained that”, or “that’s a nice way of dealing with that issue; I can use that in my lesson”.

Finally, I am enjoying the thrill of being “on stage”. As a teacher, you are constantly performing, with 30 expectant pairs of eyes on you, relying on you to learn something new. I’m certainly still in the phase of having butterflies before each class (will this ever go, I wonder?), but as you settle into the lesson and find your groove, with the class being productive – it’s just, well, cool. The high after finishing something successfully is one I got occasionally in my previous job, maybe only once every couple of months. But now it happens every day. And yes, sometimes a lesson doesn’t go so well – but the next lesson is always a clean slate where you can improve on last time.

Of course, it’s not amazing all of the time. There are frustrations or difficulties; dealing with challenging behaviour is one aspect where I have a lot to learn. And it’s tiring. Standing on your feet the whole day is a lot more draining than sitting in meetings or in front of a computer screen.

In my old job, I was always thinking about work outside of the office; but this feeling was usually one of dread – often worrying about a mistake in an Excel formula. Now, even though I still think about work all the time, it is completely different – in a positive way. I’m thinking about how to teach a certain topic or how to engage a particular student.

One of the many benefits of Ark Teacher Training is the weekly Thursday afternoon training sessions with the other trainees. It’s fantastic to have a peer group where we can share good practice and support each other. There have been some great highlights from my fellow trainees, from first successful science practicals to productive restorative conversations with students. It’s great being able to work alongside the trainees from Now Teach. The diverse experiences in our cohort, from new twenty-one-year-old graduates to fifty-something former corporate high-fliers, means that we can all learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

In the run-up to half term, I can confirm that I’ve definitely made the right career decision.

Inspired by Robert and want to train to teach? Apply now

From the City boardroom to the inner-city classroom

By | Our Trainees
Robert is currently training to teach maths with Ark Teacher Training. Prior to joining the programme he spent five years working in the City, including 18 months in New York. Over the next 12 months Robert will be documenting his journey from the boardroom to the classroom.

Going back to work after the summer was a little different this year; instead of trying to turn around a failing retailer or distributor, I am in front of 30 expectant 12-year olds attempting to teach them something about algebra and statistics.
Having broken the news of my new career to various friends over the past few months, the reaction of most has been to look at me open-mouthed with incredulity. After four and a half years climbing the corporate ladder in the illustrious world of strategy consulting, why have I decided to take a pay cut and risk embarrassing myself in front of a group of unforgiving teenagers?
There were various push and pull factors. On the push side, the transitory nature of the consulting world had begun to wear me down. You go from one intense project to the next; six weeks working for a cardboard box manufacturer, eight weeks for an outsourced catering provider, four weeks on a private equity transaction in the legal software world. For the first couple of years I learned a lot about different industries as well as the business world more generally – and working with smart and dedicated colleagues to solve difficult problems was stimulating.
But at some point, the repetitive process of handing over a 400 slide PowerPoint deck at the end of the project and moving straight on to the next one was unfulfilling. I never received any feedback from the clients on whether my recommendations had made a difference. The lack of much autonomy and the repeated crashing of a massive Excel file at 11pm at night also contributed to me losing my sense of humour too many times. Ultimately, when I was leaving the office feeling like I hadn’t ‘made a difference’ and waking up not wanting to go in, it was clearly time to move on. Life is too short – I had seen too many unhappy people in their forties and fifties stuck in a job they hated.
So why teaching? I did some volunteering while at LSE at an inner-city school through a programme called Widening Participation. I was stunned by the lack of basic maths skills of some of the 16-year olds. It was a stark contrast to my own school experience. At the time I naively thought that this must be a one-off (sadly it’s not, and I will write about educational inequality another time). But at the same time, I left the school feeling exhilarated about the possibility that I could make a real difference. And it is this feeling – passing on the knowledge that I had access to, to ensure that every child, regardless of their background, can reach their full potential – that is my principal reason for wanting to go into teaching.
Having initially been drawn in by the allure of City life, this desire to get into teaching returned when I had started to get disillusioned with consulting. However, I had multiple concerns – about the pay drop, whether I would be able to handle the kids, whether I would actually be any good; but if I’m honest, a big barrier was fearing what my friends and family would think about my move.
After a lot of soul-searching, aided by inspiration from others who had taken a similar path, such as Lucy Kellaway and the Now Teach programme, and most importantly the realisation that I had to do what made me happy, not what I thought others would approve of (and actually, everyone has been remarkably supportive), I decided to take the plunge. I took a week off work to observe lessons in schools. I knew it was the right thing for me to be doing. Within a month I had applied, received an offer and handed my notice in. I spent the summer term in the school I’m going to be teaching at as a Teaching Assistant, so I have some idea what I’m about to get myself into.
I am joining a school in central London. Although it is located in a deprived area, it achieves extraordinary results thanks to its uncompromising focus on aspiration and dedicated staff. I’ll be teaching kids aged 11-18, initially in maths but hoping to broaden to economics as well once I have completed my first year. I’ll be sure to document my journey into teaching, whether I fall flat on my face or actually manage to teach them something…

An arresting new career: from police officer to teacher

By | Our Trainees

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!

Andrew as a police officer


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.

Inspired by Andrew’s journey? Find out more about how you can retrain as a teacher with Now Teach and Ark Teacher Training


“Ark Teacher Training is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”

By | Our Trainees

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.

Harvey helping one his year 9 students

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.