Lucy Kellaway, 59, co-founded Now Teach in 2016 and after a 30-year career in journalism, has retrained as a teacher in east London. Lucy’s daughter Rosie Goodhart, 27, has been teaching for five years. She teaches at Multikids Inclusive Academy in Ghana and is part-time educational lead and teacher trainer for Inclusive Education Africa. Rosie completed her teacher training with Teach First in 2013.
"My grandma taught English for most of her life. She was a remarkable teacher and she loved her job. It stuck with me very strongly that this was a profession with a purpose. When I first looked into teaching as a career, and discovered the directness and ease of the Teach First programme, it led me to think that this was something I should at least have a go at.
I joined Teach First in 2013 and I know from this experience how much there is to learn in a short period of time. Six weeks of training can never fully prepare you for the classroom. I started out teaching history at a school in Leeds which was in special measures. It wasn’t easy, but I found it strangely addictive and enjoyable at the same time. I was incredibly well supported and looked-after throughout the first, and even the second year.
It certainly had its challenges, some of which are funny on reflection but weren’t at that time. For example, in my first month of teaching I was accidentally locked in the school after working late one Friday night. I ended up having to scale a fence to get out of the grounds! I was spotted – and photographed – by three Year 8 girls as I climbed over the fence. They then circulated the pictures to the whole school – not the best when you’re trying to give the impression that you are a serious teacher and not a clueless 22-year-old!
When mum told me her plan to retrain as a teacher I thought it was quite funny at first. She used to try and tutor me through my maths GCSE and I had flashbacks to our explosive fights where we would both be screaming at each other because I’d forgotten everything we’d been revising. Patience wasn’t exactly her strong point (or mine!).
But there’s something very different about tutoring your own child to standing up in front of a class of thirty children who are completely unknown to you. Really, I was just in awe of her decision to go for it. Not just to re-train but also to set up the Now Teach program. I knew she was going to make it happen as she never does anything half-heartedly. It was a really exciting time and we talked endlessly about how it could work.
I was very keen for my mum, and others on the Now Teach programme, to enter the profession and shake it up a bit. Whilst it is, of course, essential to acknowledge the fact that they know nothing about teaching (and that they have to be completely at ease with being line-managed by someone young enough to be their child) I feel that it’s important to remember that they have been placed in schools to not be like all the other entry level 22 year olds.
My mum, and the rest of the Now Teach cohort, have years of career/life experience which can benefit the schools they’re going into. So many in the UK have an incredibly young staffing body, and it’s important to diversify.
If you’re thinking about teaching, don’t just consider it – do it! There are now so many different ways into the profession. I would just say take the time to choose the one best suited to you. Once you’d done that, go for it. Take everything in, ask for feedback always and don’t strive for perfection because it doesn’t exist. Remember, this is about the students. Oh, and NEVER stop learning!"
"I was delighted when Rosie became a teacher five years ago. My mum taught English and I know how much she loved the profession. Hearing about Rosie’s days as a novice teacher and how much harder, more stretching and far more useful her days were than mine made me resolve to change careers. She was incredibly encouraging, both about me becoming a teacher and about setting up Now Teach. She never subscribed to the view that I was too old/too spoilt/too stuck in my ways to make a go of it.
Having her support during my first year of teaching was invaluable. I rang her on Whatsapp every evening on my walk home from school and went through my day with her. When I told her that my year nines said they hated me, she always told me how normal that was: how hating you one minute does not stop them from loving you the next.
It’s given my relationship with Rosie a new dimension in that we have a shared interest. And it’s also reversed our roles: she’s the expert and I’m the novice. Despite the fact that our jobs are so different (I teach at a strict London academy and she is deputy principal of West Africa’s only special needs school), I think that we both have similar attitudes to education and similar responses to the children.
The first year was stimulating and exhausting in equal measure. I assumed I would have some transferable skills from my previous career (and I do think my past experience has given me a strong classroom presence) but what I thought would help didn't necessarily turn out to be that useful. Public speaking skills, for example. Good teachers don’t actually need to talk that much - it’s more important to give the children a voice and listen to them.
To that end, by far the best thing about teaching is the students. Whenever I come back after a break, I’m really pleased to see (nearly) all of them. Spending my time helping them learn seems a jolly good thing to do."
“When I tell her that my year nines say they hate me, she tells me how normal that is” - Lucy Kellaway