In July 2017, shortly after my 58th birthday, I am going leave the world’s nicest job to train as a maths teacher in an inner-London school. For 31 years, I have worked at the Financial Times, as a reporter and a columnist. I have autonomy, great colleagues, and the freedom to write about whatever interests me. Yet though I still love what I do, I’m not getting better at it. And as I hope to go on living for many more decades, it seems mad to spend my whole life doing one thing.
“I can’t be the only 50 something person in the country to want a second career in this most noble of professions.”
I hate the phrase “give something back” – it’s soppy. But I want to do something that improves people’s lives in a tangible way. Being useful is a luxury I can now afford as I’m part of the lucky generation with houses and pensions – so a drop in salary doesn’t terrify me in the way it once would have.
The dream of teaching didn’t come from nowhere. My mother was a legendary English teacher – but it was my daughter, a Teach First-er, who really inspired me. In the early days, I’d listen to her stories about the trials of trying to get noisy classes to sit down quietly and learn; later she showed me the letters of gratitude her pupils sent her when they got better grades in their GCSEs than they had ever thought possible. I looked on with something close to envy and thought: I want some of that too.
So earlier this year I started applying to be a maths teacher, but was put off almost at once by a process which almost shouts: this isn’t for you! Even the requirement that I produce my GCSE certificates was tricky – GCSEs didn’t exist in 1975, and I did my O Levels so long ago I can’t even remember what I got. Then there was the further confusion of all those conflicting acronyms – PGCE and ITT – and the endless pictures of smiling teachers of less than half my age.
I thought: this is mad. There is a chronic shortage of maths teachers so why aren’t they welcoming us with open arms? I also thought: I can’t be the only 50 something person in the country to want a second career in this most noble of professions. So I started to ask around, and found half my contemporaries agreed that in theory they would love to teach, but….
So the idea of Now Teach was born. The rest isn’t history just yet. But it soon will be.