Questioner who knew the answer

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Ewen Haynes read philosophy at St Andrew's university and spent two years studying formal logic. Not a surprise, then, that his first job, which lasted six years, was with a multinational IT company.

He was a systems analyst, responsible for liaising with customers to establish their software requirements, and for specifying those requirements in ways that technicians could easily understand. That demanded communications skills of a high order. He wasn't a technician himself, more an interface between his company and the business community, and a mediator between two groups who didn't have a language in common.

Ewen is a questioner. That's ideal for a teacher, but doesn't sit easily within a business environment governed by axiomatic assumptions, the most important being that shareholders must have their dividends. "If you question that, then you're a loony," he says.

It wasn't only that unease that led Ewen to change direction, however. He began to feel that his work was becoming repetitive and that, having met the personal and intellectual challenges of mastering the job, there was no significant next step.

Teaching seems to Ewen to have greater social value than working in business. Education, for him, is about questioning, which leads to a deeper engagement with the people he interacts with. There are plenty of challenges, since every pupil is different and there is always room to improve teaching skills. Seeing learning happen offers a very different satisfaction from hitting a production deadline.

Now that he's a newly qualified teacher at The Misbourne school in Buckinghamshire, Ewen is beginning to feel part of a real community. "In business, people are a means to an end, but the development of pupils is an end in itself." Had he stayed in IT, he finds it hard to say where he would be now, as the industry is so sensitive to market cycles. He has taken a significant salary drop, but is no longer "in a fur-lined rut".

He's happy in school, and is valued - he has been made ICT co-ordinator on the strength of his previous experience. Business has taught him effective time management and prioritisation, and he finds it easy to work with a goal-oriented headteacher. His experience of good management has helped him "sniff out the pointless"; and to realise the importance of sharing ownership of policies. His business experience has given him the skills to assert what's important, and the robustness to stand up for his views.

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