You can do it

22nd August 2003 at 01:00
Late starters may need to rethink their approach, writes Susan MacDonald

Walking into your first job on that first day is a difficult business no matter which area of work you're in - but teaching is different. The profession is encouraging late starters, those with experience in another profession, to change tack and become teachers.

Mary worked for more than 20 years as a journalist, but involvement in her son's schooling convinced her that she wanted to teach. She found it more difficult than she expected. She had all the qualities business considers important - thinking on your feet, ability to work in a team and being a good communicator - but she found it difficult to move from being a gatherer of information to disseminating it.

It was her attitude to pupils that held her back. She had been concerned about their attitude to her, and worked hard to create lessons they would enjoy. She realised they might not be learning as had been decreed, but considered it important that they were having fun and getting a lot from doing things together.

It was the experience of others that changed this. In those first days, she was amazed at the hard work fellow teachers put in to impart knowledge to pupils, and to gain their respect. She understood that she had to include discipline in her approach to lessons and in her dealings with the children.

Her experience had only taken her so far - and was in some ways a hindrance because her aims are now different. Teachers work hard to do their best for children and their reward is seeing the difference they make, whereas in business the aim is to be well thought of and the reward is promotion andor a pay rise - a difference that commercial organisations involved with schools should keep in mind.

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