The uncertainty and upheaval caused by Covid-19 has been challenging for many.
However, for a significant number the emotional rollercoaster has been an opportunity to reflect and reconsider their priorities and careers.
According to a survey commissioned by Now Teach, more than 1.6million people in the UK (3.1% of those questioned) have now thought about becoming a teacher, despite not considering it before lockdown.
The questionnaire found lockdown has actually led to an increase in the status of teachers, especially with parents. Over 25% of parents surveyed said they had become more grateful for the work of teachers since lockdown. About 25% also said their respect for teachers had risen.
Here Jon Elliott and Katherine Chivers reveal why they walked away from their 9 to 5.30pm jobs to retrain as teachers during the pandemic.
The pair work for Aspirations Academies Trust which has a number of schools on the South Coast including Magna Academy, Jewell and Livingstone Academy Bournemouth which has been co-founded with Sir Ian Livingstone, co-founder of The Games Workshop.
Jon Elliott, 45, a Year 1 class teacher at Jewell Academy, Townsend
“I was working as a recruiter in the pharmaceutical industry when I was made redundant in October 2019.
I managed to find another job with multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). However, I was not due to start until after the Christmas period and so I used my time to help at my child’s school.
They were desperate for volunteers to come in and read to the children in Year 1. Seeing the difference I was able to make in helping the children to progress was rewarding and it was a lovely experience. It made me realise how much I enjoyed helping the children and I started to toy with the idea of a career in teaching.
When I reflected on what I enjoyed about my role in recruitment it was helping people with their CVs and their confidence. I have never been motivated by money or targets set to make money. Teaching is all about helping children to achieve their potential.
I started my new role with GSK in February 2020 and although it is a lovely company to work for and my colleagues were very nice, I did not find recruitment fulfilling anymore.
My core values are based around helping people and wanting to make a difference that way.
Six weeks into my new role we went into lockdown and I remember thinking there had to be a more productive way of using my time.
I discussed how I was feeling with my wife, Melissa, who is a Global Marketing Director for a pharmaceutical company and she encouraged me to think about making the switch into teaching. She understood that I wanted to do something different and to work with children.
I started looking into teacher training and discovered that because I already have a business degree, I could complete a one year PGCE course which I did at St Mary’s in Twickenham.
Towards the end of my course, I started to think about choosing a school and it was then that my wife and I decided to relocate – we were living near Windsor at the time.
Melissa was told she could continue to work from home and we decided to use the opportunity to move. Melissa grew up in Bournemouth and we liked the idea of being closer to extended family.
I spotted a vacancy at Jewell Academy in Bournemouth and knew it was the perfect school for me as Alexandra Waddington, the Principal, and I have the same views when it comes to education: With a school everything has to be about the child.
The staff at Jewell have been very supportive and it’s been great to see how all the skills I’ve accumulated over the years and through working elsewhere are of benefit. It all makes for a far more enriching experience for me and the children I teach. Teaching is every bit as rewarding as I imagined it to be. The opportunity to change the lives of children for the better is what it’s all about for me.’’
I worked in customer service in insurance and logistics for five years before going into teaching.
I can vividly remember the day I decided to change the course of my life: I had taken a particularly abusive call from a member of the public and at the end I put the phone down and started filling in my application form for a teaching degree.
I had been considering going into teaching for a while but that phone call was the push I needed to do it.
I had realised over time that what I enjoy most is helping people: I have previously worked as an au pair and enjoyed helping the children I looked after. When I worked in customer service, I ended up training a lot of people and I really enjoyed talking to people.
At the time I had left university and was unsure of what I wanted to do and the job was an easy fit for me. I ended up training a lot of people and I really enjoyed talking people through the processes and helping them.
I started my course at Southampton University in September 2019, just before Covid-19 hit.
By the time the pandemic took hold it was impossible for me to get much hands-on training and it was strange to learn about teaching but not be able to apply it but my tutors were absolutely brilliant and were always available to provide help and support.
I started my training at Magna Academy in January 2020 and as soon as I walked into the school, I had that feeling of belonging.
Every time I teach a class and I see the spark in a child’s eye when they’ve understood something, that for me is why I went into teaching. For example, it was great to see my Year 7 class engage with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and to see the spark in their eyes as they all enjoyed it was incredible.
At the moment, I’m teaching love poetry to Year 9 students and it’s so rewarding to see them engage with the words and to understand the emotions and to realise it’s something they can relate to and understand. It’s a great feeling to see a child understand something in a lesson that they couldn’t quite grasp two days ago.
Teaching is about helping children. It’s the kids that make it special and you can see how incredible they are – there isn’t a topic they’re not willing to discuss!
Teaching is a vocation. I have a similar background to the kids at Magna and I can see the difference I’m making to the kids. It’s a case of nurturing them and showing them that you care.
I worked hard at school and used education to help me to get out of the area I grew up in and to raise my aspirations. I was the first child in my family to go to university and I want the same for the children I teach.
To anyone thinking of going into teaching, I would say go for it. Teaching is hard work but for all the effort that I put in, the children put in just as much effort.
Teaching is the most rewarding thing I have done. It’s pretty much every day that I experience something in school that makes me think, this is what I want to do. This is the job for me.’’
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