This guest blog is by Elizabeth Holmes of Eteach. After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.
As someone who is enjoying a blended career in the world of education – teaching and writing have always been constant, but I have also incorporated presenting, training, researching and a vast amount of studying. I am a huge fan of the sheer variety and breadth of experience they can offer. There is never a moment of boredom and being nudged beyond my comfort zone to explore new territory is both exhilarating and demanding.
Blended careers seem to be on the increase. Many people now have a side hustle they can make money from alongside their main career, while others have no intention of doing the same job for the duration of their working life, choosing to move from one career to another, or branching out into new territory in their existing career.
“I wanted to develop my own brand of teaching.”
Lucy Spencer, CEO of Education Boutique, did just that. Having trained as a teacher at Oxford Brookes University, she then taught at an academy in Slough where she was drawn to the whole school initiative which meant she could teach the violin. “There were amazing teachers there who really inspired me,” Lucy explained. “Then I moved to Dubai for four years to teach in a traditional British primary school. This was a private school with a very different socio-economic profile from the school I taught in back in Slough. It was a very interesting comparison. The desire to provide a quality education for all is down to who is driving a school.”
On her return from Dubai, Lucy went back to the Slough school she had previously taught in, but then made the difficult decision to leave the classroom to start her own company. “I wanted to develop my own brand of education through tutoring. I was very quickly fully booked in my tutoring business so I took on tutors who could work with me. I worked a lot with home educated children and we did a lot of traveling around the world. The traveling we did was a stimulus for the work we did. As a tutor I want the children to be on a constant quest for knowledge, rather than me selecting what they should learn.”
Tutoring can be useful at any time in a child’s education. “Unfortunately,” Lucy said, “the curriculum is assessment focused, and tutors are often brought in as assessments approach. But a good tutor is about empowering a child on a one-to-one basis. They are similar to a personal mentor or guide, developing intrinsic motivation. This is the exciting aspect of tutoring. Tutors are decentralized – we are not governed by the curriculum. Anyone working as a teacher who feels the curriculum is out of touch should consider this. There are so many things you can do to further education. How do we make learning cool?”
Lucy has built up what she describes as “a decent sized company” that does a lot of training and tutoring. “Although I have to say I am not a big fan of the word “tutor”. I think we should be called “educators” as that is what we do,” Lucy explains. “My job is to be outspoken about what tutors can do and what they can achieve. I have just under 90 tutors working for Education Boutique and we provide tutoring and support internationally. We are also approached by local authorities, schools, parents and teachers and we support alternative provision. I was awarded female entrepreneur of the year in the Thames Valley area, and I often go into schools to speak about what I have achieved. We tutor children at all ages and stages and abilities, and I love bringing learning to life.”
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There are teachers all over the country developing blended careers to better suit themselves and their lifestyles. And while we may start off on one path in the world of education, there are so many opportunities and interesting lanes to explore; we may well find ourselves taking routes that were never part of the plan!
“I was given the opportunity to keep growing that passion.”
Jodie Lopez took a circuitous route into teaching. “I initially wanted to teach and worked as a Teaching Assistant and childminder’s assistant in my teens,” she explains. “However, I did not get any success getting onto a PGCE course. I took my path elsewhere and meandered a while through various sales and customer service jobs, including working as a holiday rep overseas where I managed to take charge of a kids’ club. Then I came back to the UK and completed some Open University courses to help me to reapply to a PGCE. On the 7th try I was accepted as a French specialist for Primary!”
Jodie feels that her long journey to become a teacher made her work extra hard at university and then in her NQT year. “This led to me taking on a lot of extra responsibility early on in my teaching career, including being shadow ICT coordinator and working on the school’s assessment data,” she said. “After a few years I moved fully into the role of ICT coordinator and rolling out technology projects across the school from nursery to Year 6. My interest in using technology grew and I was given the opportunity to keep growing that passion.”
Responding to interests and passions as they develop along the way is a perfect approach to cultivating a blended career. For Jodie, this led her to eventually leave the classroom to consult and support other schools with the rollout of education technology across the curriculum. This in turn led to her being offered a job with Pearson to help share best practice across schools who were using their learning platforms. “From there,” she explained, “I moved to an assessment system provider and focused on helping schools to move to the new curriculum and new assessment processes when the old levels system was removed. Working with the product team inspired me to then set up a consultancy, which I now run, which is aimed at helping EdTech companies to bridge the gap between their commercial needs and the needs of teachers and schools. My work is varied and different every day depending on which clients I am working with. I am also a judge for the Teaching Awards which always inspires me and doing work for local schools helps me to give back directly into education too.”
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Over the next few months, we will be exploring blended careers in the world of education in more detail, from tutoring, supply work and international teaching, to becoming a school governor or working in an advisory role. The series will draw inspiration from those who share their talents and skills not only in the classroom but beyond, in their wider communities, for the world of tomorrow.
If you’ve taken a blended approach to your career in education, get in touch to share your story at [email protected].