Taking the Stand: From courtroom to classroom

  • Due to economical and personal reasons, many teachers have joined the profession following a career in another industry.
  • Many argue that these individuals offer a lot more to schools and pupils due to their experiences outside the education sector.
  • In this article from the August 2014 edition of UKEdMagazineAdam Lawrence shares his transition from the courtroom to the classroom – exploring the similarities and the differences.

Last year I made the increasingly popular decision to hang up my legal gown and replace it with… a teacher’s gown. After a total of eight years studying, networking, training then eventually practising as a solicitor it was finally (some might say prematurely) time to leave the courtroom for the classroom. Why are so many people following this trend and changing careers? After the blood, sweat, toil and tears to qualify for a profession, is it a sign of weakness or strength that more and more professionals are leaving their calling for an altogether new vocation in teaching?

Troops to Teachers

With the Government’s range of incentives and funding to re-train as a teacher, it is becoming more accessible to change career; the Department for Education’s website bit.ly/uked14aug02 describes life as a teacher as “challenging, varied and highly rewarding”, so it is no surprise why people are leaving their desk jobs behind.

The recent Troops to Teachers programme is a prime example of the Government’s drive to transferring skilled professionals from other careers into the classroom. The recruitment material advises troops considering the move: “You know how to handle a situation”. Does the Government consider a soldier or indeed another professional to be better equipped in a school than a teacher who pursues the traditional route of university and teacher training?

Courtroom to Classroom

I’m often asked by former colleagues: ‘is teaching really as hard as teachers make out?’ Or another favourite of mine: ‘do teachers actually work in the school holidays?!’ The differences for me have been varied. Whilst I was, at times, working in what felt like highly pressured environments, whether it was a high value commercial contract negotiation or appearing before a judge in court, there is nothing quite like being stood in front of a class of teenagers waiting to be taught.

The reality is that whatever work experience you have acquired, nothing truly equips you to perform as a teacher aside from subject passion and a desire to work with children. The stresses of the job manifest themselves in different forms: solicitors are constrained by court deadlines, hearing dates, financial business pressures or demanding clients; teachers’ time is filled with reports, marking, lesson preparation, parents’ evenings, extra-curricular commitments, emails and that’s not forgetting actually teaching. If you have a passion for your subject and for working with children, you don’t resent working late and cancelling that long overdue catch up with old friends, although ask me in ten years, I may have changed my tune by then!

Curtain Call

Other professionals are on the bandwagon too. At my school we have five ex-lawyers and a wealth of other professionals from industry. I asked a colleague, Oliver Pengelly, what made him leave professional acting: “… the stability and recognition I was beginning to crave. I also suspected that my professional experience would be invaluable within an education establishment, which (I hope!) has proved the case”. When asked what similarities he noticed between the stage and school: “You are always on show. The hours are long and you often take work home. Preparation is essential (the “audience” know when you are bluffing it)”. The luxury of taking your final bow at the end of a performance and appearing on stage the next night to a new crowd doesn’t feature in teaching until the end of a very long year! I asked Oliver which career is harder: “You have no script to follow. You are responsible for what comes up out of your mouth and making sure that it is purposeful and interesting. That is a lot of pressure to deal with, multiple times a week. Tough!”

Year End Accounts

Which is tougher, teaching or working in the so-called real world? I asked another colleague, Victor Fung, a chartered accountant turned Economics and Business Studies teacher. His response: “Teaching is not as difficult on a technical basis nor is there pressure to go out and find work… but the volume and stamina at times is more difficult”. Teachers may not have the most technically challenging job. However, we are faced with the physical and emotional trials that working with children brings.

Work Life Balance

There is no escaping the fact that while teachers work hard

Click Here to read the full article in the August 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine

Adam Lawrence is a Religion and Philosophy teacher at Berkhamsted School. He is a former solicitor and was In-House Counsel at a leading international financial services business and subsequently Legal Counsel at a global IT company. You can find him on Twitter @lawrence_ad

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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