From farmer to teacher: Why I changed career with Teach First
In September, Jon started as a science teacher in Wakefield. He shares what it was like going from aquaculture to the classroom in a year like no other.
I’d been thinking about becoming a teacher for a long time, but Teach First’s Training Programme seemed like the perfect way to actually make the leap. With a salary from day one, it helps make the dream a reality for people like me who are switching careers.
"Wrangling fish and managing a classroom are [surprisingly similar]"
I’d worked on the Orkney Islands as a practical aquaculture biologist, and managed a number of salmon farms near the Isle of Skye on the west coast. I was worlds apart from teaching - the last time I was in a classroom, I was a student. I was nervous about how much of my work history would translate to education, but as it turns out wrangling fish and managing a classroom are more similar than you'd think: making decisions under pressure, managing time effectively, giving clear instructions and making sure to sleep enough.
2020: A strange introduction to teaching
Atypical would be an understatement for my start into teaching. I didn’t find myself in the classroom much at all before September, as most of my teacher training was online. Fortunately though, De Lacy Academy ran a few small classes just before the summer with key groups which I was able to observe. Seeing the school’s experts manage a learning space helped me out immeasurably.
Then that was it – I was in front of the class. Delivering my first-ever lesson, tasting adrenaline with the floor shaking beneath me. It was one of the most terrifying yet exhilarating experiences of my life, and something I’d been imagining and planning for months.
I was lucky to have the Academy’s Science Director spend the first two weeks of term with me. They provided feedback on my lessons and general support, without which I would have sunk!
Excellent support from Teach First
One of the best things about Teach First’s programmes is the network of other teachers. This has been invaluable, as we’ve been able to share our experiences and support one another.
Teach First also provides a Development Lead who provides ongoing one to one support. Our lead Lucy is a former teacher and has been invaluable. She knows exactly what I’m going through and has supported me so many times already. She is always only a phone call away, and as well as helping me with all of my questions, she runs our group’s virtual learning sessions on teaching theory and practices. Questioning, behaviour, pitch, pace and structure - the amount of work we have gotten through is titanic and every day I know her I feel myself becoming more expert.
"In teaching, mental health matters"
The last two months have been a steep learning curve, and the hard parts of teaching aren’t what I expected. I went into teaching because I love my subject and because I wanted to give back to society. You grow to care about the students and at times, it can be quite emotional if they’re struggling, often due to circumstances at home. I have tried to focus on what I’m bringing to their lives on a daily basis and that has done me the world of good. You learn very quickly in teaching that mental health matters.
The impact of COVID-19
I don’t have anything to compare my experience to, but I know from other teachers at school that it’s a tough time for the profession at the moment. It might sound small, but to give you an example of the impact of COVID-19, teachers at De Lacy Academy no longer have their own classrooms – now they move around the school to teach each class (rather than hundreds of students moving around the school). This means setting up each lesson in a different room each time and in front of the pupils, sometimes on the other side of school. This is time consuming and makes it’s harder for the class to settle down and focus on the next lesson.
"Every bit as rewarding as I hoped it would be"
These challenges make my career what it is though, and thanks to Teach First, at the end of this academic year I’ll hopefully be a qualified teacher. For now though, half-term is here and I’m just as delighted as I am tired that I’ve got through my first ever stint of teaching.
Turns out making that career change has been every bit as rewarding as I hoped it would be.
We know this year has been one of the most challenging and has brought a lot of uncertainty, however it has proven what we have known all along: teaching is a vital profession for the future of our country. Schools and children need inspirational new teachers like never before.
Click here to find out more and register your interest in our Training Programme.