Teaching Opens Doors
A recent Teach First tweet caused uproar after it suggested that teaching could be used a stepping stone to a career like investment banking. But being a teacher opens so many doors if you stay.
I used to work in the music industry. After a stint as a tour manager and sound engineer travelling the world with a live Drum & Bass band, I then worked in music publishing. The work was interesting and well paid (I used to get a bonus and everything!) but after 5 years, I found myself doubting my career choice. In short, it lacked meaning. So, whilst working in the music industry, I signed up to become a mentor for the charity, Chance UK. For a year, I mentored a 9-year-old boy in Hackney who was at risk of being kicked out of school. We met every week and set little goals to achieve and explored London going to museums, parks and libraries. At the same time, I volunteered to become a governor at a local primary school and loved giving some back to my community. In 2010, I decided to retrain to become a primary school teacher and I have never looked back.
Ok, that's a lie. I looked back a lot in my first year of teaching. It was a really brutal learning curve if I'm totally honest, and I found myself massively out of my depth. I constantly thought back to how easy I had it in my music job, with my 2-hour lunches and not really doing any work on a Monday morning or Friday at all! Teaching was full on from the moment you stepped into school to when you left and I found myself reeling and doubting if I'd made the right choice. But, as I started to get better at teaching, as my subject knowledge improved, and as I started to focus on what really mattered to me, such a developing children's happiness and wellbeing as well as academic attainment, I started to find my rhythm.
Teaching has afforded me many opportunities. The most important ones have been being able to shape and influence the lives of young people. When you see the progress your pupils make over a year (academic, social, emotional, spiritual, physical) it is extremely humbling and rewarding. Teaching is a brilliant profession. Yes, it can be extremely frustrating and soul destroying at times but this blog isn't about those moments. I want to share some of the opportunities that I have been given that simply wouldn't have materialised unless I was a teacher.
1. Writing a book
A couple of months ago, my first ever book Wellbeing In The Primary Classroom was published. I had
spent my entire teaching career researching and applying the best ways to develop teachers' and
children's levels of happiness and wellbeing. I had an idea for a book, I wrote to Bloomsbury and they gave me a contract to write the book. I can honestly say, unless I was a teacher, this would never have happened. Lots of teachers have written books such as Ross McGill, Victoria Hewitt, Tammie Prince, Marc Smith and Emma Kell to name just a few. If you are a teacher and you have a good idea for a book, chances are you can get it published without needing an agent.
2. Meeting the Dalai Lama
I had worked closely with a charity called Action for Happiness when working at a school in London. One summer, their director, Mark Williamson, asked if I could speak at an event they were having about how I had tried to focus my teaching practice on developing children’s wellbeing. I said I’d love to. “Oh and can you bring three of your pupils to speak too?” Mark asked. Of course, I replied. “Oh and you’ll be speaking on stage with the Dalai Lama, is that OK?” Errrr, yes!!! So, I, and three of my pupils, spoke on stage with the Dalai Lama, at the Lyceum Theatre, in front of an audience of 2,500 people. That’s teaching for you.
3. Public Speaking
Since that event, I’ve had the opportunity to speak publicly in my role as a teacher. I spoke on two panels at the Festival of Education, at the IPEN Positive Education Summit in Texas, at Pedagoo Hampshire, at
#BrewEdBrighton, at the Dacorum Headteacher’s Conference, at Hertfordshire University. And 2019 is filling up with speaking opportunities too. Basically, if you’re a teacher and you’ve got something to say, there are plenty of opportunities to share your thoughts with a wider audience.
4. Being a dad
In September 2015, I became a dad for the first time. I’d just started a new job and my Headteacher agreed to my request for flexible working (I worked 4-days a week for the Autumn term) so I got to spend some time with my new family. The following year, when my wife returned to work part-time, I requested to go to 3-days a week and my Headteacher agreed. I love being a teacher and being a dad. Teaching affords me 12 weeks off a year to spend with my family. Teaching also allows me to work part-time. Teaching is great.
5. Shaping the future of education
Last month, I was invited to attend a roundtable discussion at Westminster hosted by the Education Support Partnership. The event was to discuss the findings from their #TeacherWellbeingIndex report and find solutions to the current problems facing teachers. The statistics in the report are sobering and somewhat bleak but the event left me feeling really inspired. Basically, everyone agreed that enough is enough and we need to reclaim teaching. We need to reclaim the narrative that teaching is a noble, meaningful and fulfilling profession. But also, reclaim our agency –
stop ticking boxes, stop doing the stuff we know is a waste of time, and start focusing on what matters. Emma Kell was there too and wrote this article about it. Teachers have an immense opportunity right now to take back control of their profession and shape it how they want to. I fully intend to embrace this opportunity.
6. Changing the world
In the grand scheme of things, all of the points I’ve mentioned above pail into insignificance when you think about what it is that normal, everyday teachers do on a daily basis – which is change the world. We teach, we inspire, we educate, we develop, we nurture, and we grow future generations. And then we collapse at half term. Teaching is exhausting. But it is worth it.
The door is wide open
So, use teaching as a springboard to other careers if you like. Use teaching to fulfil ambitions to write and speak if you feel the urge. And use teaching to inspire the next generation. Teaching is full of opportunities. The door is wide open and we need to show our pupils how to step through it and grasp those opportunities and change the world.