Taking flight to the classroom

A lifetime in the RAF
With only a handful of CSE’s, my first job was as a lab technician.  I stayed there for five years, gained higher qualifications and then decided to join the Royal Air Force where I stayed for 27 years. During my time in the Air Force I gained GCSEs O- levels and decided that as I was away a lot of the time that I would start an Open University course.  Over the years, I had always been involved in activities for children including sports, scouts and youth clubs, and I took an active role in my children’s school as a parent governor.  Through this I learnt and understood what being a teacher involved.

Too old to teach?
At 48 years of age, I thought I would be too old to teach, but I took the plunge and applied for the graduate teacher programme.  They took me on more for more wider industry experience than any knowledge I had of the classroom. 

The mother of of all pay cuts
The financial sacrifice was enormous and I still think that the government does not do enough to support mature career changers.  I went from a salary of £36,000 to £14,500 and without my RAF pension there would have been no way that I would have been able to afford it. Yet even with that, I still lost £10,000 a year.  But obviously money was not the main consideration otherwise I would have stayed in the RAF until I was 55. 

The Graduate Training Programme way
The GTP was realistically the only way that I could realistically become a teacher as I needed the money to pay my bills.  After three interviews, one where the school did not want me, one where I did not like the school and the third where I liked the school and they liked me I gained my current employment.  The GTP year went well and although I did work some long hours I never felt the pressure of the course that some of the younger members did, I still took time off to be with my family.  After my GTP the NQT year has been very uneventful and dare I say it easy with no problems recorded, apart from a few pupil discipline problems at the start.

What do I bring to teaching?
Now to the skills and experiences I bring to the classroom:  management skills, organisational skills, ICT skills (probably more qualified than our technicians but I am not even allowed to change a cable); more patience than some of my younger colleagues and a work ethic where I do not mind working long hours.  In fact, I work a lot less hours now than when I was in the RAF and the holidays that I now get are the envy of all my friends still in the RAF.

Was it the right decision?
So far, I definitely believe that I have made the right decision; I need a job that is different each day like teaching, my work life balance is much better than before.  And to top it all, most children are delightful and a pleasure to teach, but for those that are not the school is very supportive of staff and have procedures in place to provide help when required.  I would recommend teaching as a second, third career to anyone as long as they can cope with the initial pay cut that accompanies it. 

Need more advice? Visit Teaching as a career choice