How I Left Teaching but am Staying Committed to Education and Continue to Connect the Dots
(This blog post was featured on Teach First this February)
Writing this fills me with a strange feeling – a good feeling, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is it a sense of achievement, purpose or welcome nostalgia? I grew up in Austria, but an unquenchable thirst for adventure and the “unknown” led me onto an arguably less conventional academic route and I ended up studying at Newcastle University. Initially I was convinced that three years of History and Politics in the North East would make me unbearably long for the Alps, my family and friends but ten years later I’m still here (visiting home as much I shall add).
A lot of the things that have happened in my life I hadn’t really planned for but some of the decisions I’ve made over the last ten years were the best decisions of my life.
For instance, deciding to leave an intellectually challenging (but potentially too comfortable desk) job in public affairs, with promising career progression, great Christmas and summer parties and company-away-days to top European destinations, was one of the those important decisions. I liked working and learning in a political environment advising a number of clients on policy issues, but it left me unfulfilled. I had a burning desire to interact with people and communicate on a more interpersonal level. My intellectual, social and emotional curiosity wasn’t satisfied in a corporate environment. I always had this ongoing feeling that my actual personal strengths and passions lay elsewhere and I made it my goal to find out what those were…
So this is what I did: I listened to all the advice I could get and surrounded myself, whenever I could, with interesting people. I absorbed everything from the stories they wanted to share to the lessons they willingly passed on. As it happens, one of the individuals I met along the way gave me an incredibly simple but invaluable piece of advice.
He said, “Listen to those around you, and a lot of them will tell you about their jobs and you won’t find that particularly interesting. You will find it hard to ask questions about what they do. But every now and then someone comes along who tells you about what they do and you can’t help but ask questions. It will make you feel incredibly curious and you will find it fascinating”.
All of a sudden it was clear to me; I wanted to be a teacher. One of my best friends at the time began the Teach First Leadership Development Programme and at any given opportunity I would prey on him, wide-eyed, with questions about how his day had gone, what lessons he had learned from teaching his classes, what his students were like and how he enthused them to learn; I wanted to hear it all.
I hijacked many dinner parties and gatherings with friends and effectively cornered Freddie to tell me his stories. Endless conversations of what makes young people tick and how to excite them about learning, how to keep them motivated and how he had managed to change their lives ensued. And then I applied. And I got onto the programme. I was probably the happiest person in the world.
Leaving my job and joining Teach First was the best decision of my life. I spent three years at Harris Academy Bromley and whilst the three years were certainly the toughest three years of my life they were also the best and most defining. I learned immense amounts from my colleagues and friends and I felt like I was having an impact and was improving my students’ lives. I felt like I was playing a small but important part in achieving Teach First’s mission of achieving great social change and empower those who by birth aren’t as lucky as others. “With great power comes great responsibility,” all of a sudden took a completely new meaning.
After a bit over three years in the classroom I made the next important decision. I decided I was ready to leave teaching (at least for the time being). As much as I felt at home in the classroom amongst my students and valued colleagues, I was ready for some “Me Time”. I wanted to do something entrepreneurial and was inspired to start my own educational business. The Innovation Unit provided me with excellent advice and feedback on my ideas, but felt I wanted to gain more experience first and joined the New Entrepreneurs Foundation as Head of Talent and Communities and became a part of this young and energetic educational charity with the mission to change the UK’s business landscape through developing the entrepreneurial leaders of the future. Not to dissimilar from Teach First’s mission, right?
Another great decision made! At NEF I continue to work with young people, predominantly graduates and career changers, with a passion and desire to change things through creating innovative and scalable businesses. The NEF partners with high-growth businesses, where candidates are placed whilst they complete a fast-track programme designed to give them the essential skillsets to tackle the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey.
In my role I meet fascinating organisations and individuals enthusiastic about change and improving lives on a daily basis and we discuss how we can improve the world through business. Teach First has provided me with the confidence and the right attitude to tackle managerial challenges in the classroom and it feels good to know that the skillsets I acquired working in a challenging school have proven to be a real asset to my new role. At NEF we provide our candidates with the confidence, knowledge and the network they need to become successful entrepreneurs. I know that joining NEF and continuing my career working for an educational charity was the right step. In a way, I am receiving an education in entrepreneurship along the way and continue to feel inspired by passionate people with big ideas.
I hope that one day I will be launching my own business or starting a school with people passionate about changing lives. I’ve learned it is not all about planning everything way ahead, but connecting the dots and making the right decisions along the way.