After many years in teaching, the time came for a change. I calculated that I had taught Romeo and Juliet a total of 60 times, boring even myself (it is very hard to find a fresh and lively approach on your 61st attempt) so I decided a change of direction was probably a good idea. However, after spending all my life in the classroom, who would be interested in me? Who would want to employ someone with an intimate knowledge of Romeo and Juliet and seeming little else? How wrong I was.
Starting a job hunt, I was amazed at the range and variety of jobs that called for “good communication skills” – (if you could demystify iambic pentameter with unwilling 16 year olds, I guess I qualified) – “good negotiation skills – I could persuade a young person not to throw that chair – “conflict resolution” – that goes without saying – I quickly realised that many of the skills honed in teaching were greatly valued outside the classroom. Perhaps I wasn’t such a bad bet after all…
I quite quickly got the offer to take over a supply agency that had just begun to establish itself. At first this did not seem to be a very attractive alternative but, unlike teaching, I was my own boss and could make all the key decisions. At first this was quite daunting as I was used to a more collaborative approach in teaching, but I soon got used to making fundamental decisions – and of living with the consequences. If I made a bad decision, I had no one to blame but myself. (It is surprising how you refine decisions under those circumstances.) Additionally, there was the matter of finances. I had held and ran a substantial budget in teaching but the dreaded Bursar was in the background with her double accounting and cost centres. I had sat on the School Finance Committee for two years and never contributed a thing – now I had to balance the books, pay the staff, deal with the mystery of HMRC and VAT and answer complex pay queries. With the aid of a fierce bookkeeper who held me to account for every last penny (she is still chasing me for a receipt for £2.00), I got the business up and running – and even began to enjoy it. (The moral here is that if you are not good at something, pay someone else to do it). Perhaps the greatest transition was learning to cost time. As teachers we all give of our time freely and rarely, if ever, count the cost. In business time is money – an unpalatable truth, but inescapable.
To my great delight, the business was a success and I had made the transition from teacher to business-person, despite my lack of maths. What I now needed was a way forward into the future..
And so it was that my agency became a part of Smart Teachers. I once again faced profound change but, knowing how it had motivated me to learn many new skills, I was excited at the prospect of working in a corporate world as an employee, in a desirable and glamorous location. I have never worked in an office before (but I have watched The Office). Happily, there were no David Brents here, but instead a corporate and team approach, targets, office parties, and a new and alien database to master. Every day is a voyage of discovery.
So, I would encourage you all to embrace change: it can be scary but totally energising. Value all those skills you gain as teachers and have confidence that the outside world is a place where you can survive and flourish.
Business Development Manager