How the pandemic inspired me to train to be a German teacher

Has the pandemic forced you to re-look at your career? Find out how one woman was inspired to retrain as a German teacher.

Redundancy in the UK reached a record highof 14.2 per thousand between September and November 2020. The pandemic is also causing more of us to rethink our careers with 6.1% of employed people changing occupations between January and June 2020, and half switching major industry too. And it’s those aged 35 plus that are most likely to make the change, thanks to their abundance of transferable skills.

One person who made a major career change following redundancy in 2020 is Charlotte Hand, 48, who is training to become a secondary German teacher. Charlotte told us more about the experience.

Can you tell us about your old job and the catalyst for changing career?

My former role was as a client relationship manager for a large retail solutions company. I heard in 2019 that the company was going to close down. I knew I could get another job in retail but I really couldn’t face it. It was time to do something completely different.

What was your next step?

I spent some time thinking about what I enjoyed doing in my old role, and the things that stood out were coaching and training people. Education is something I’d become more interested in through my role as a school governor at my daughter’s school, and colleagues encouraged me to think about teaching. 

My HR director gave me the contact for Transition to Teach, which is a Department for Education funded service, delivered by Cognition Education, and they helped me with putting in my UCAS application and getting through the interview. It was a case of, if I don’t try now I’ll never know. I applied for three courses and got two interviews, and two offers of places.

Had you ever thought about teaching before?

When I finished my A levels at 18, my German teacher advised me to train to become a German teacher. I actually undertook a degree in finance and accounting, living and studying in Germany for a time. Colleagues would say to me that they wished they had spent more time learning German. Teaching wasn’t for me at 18, but in my 40s, it felt like much more of a natural fit.

What transferable skills will you take into your new career?

I don’t think I was patient enough to be a teacher when I was younger. I needed to see more of life and I think this life experience will help me as a teacher. It is hard to imagine a 21 year old me advising an 18 year old about career choices, whereas now, with life experience, I can talk about all of the career opportunities that languages can bring because I’ve lived it myself.

It can be hard for young people to visualise what you can do with German or another language, other than being a linguist.

Have your life goals and values changed since you started your first career?

As I get older, having a career that matters is more important to me. I have a 20 year teaching career ahead of me. In my old career, I was involved in making cosmetic displays and whilst it was interesting, it was an invisible industry with not much of a chance to make a difference. By training as a teacher, I’m giving something back to my old self.

How have you found the return to study?

Studying again is mind-blowing and exhilarating. There’s a real mix of students. We had an online Zoom session and were organised into breakout groups. I had to laugh when a fellow student said I was the same age as her mum. But actually, being back in education is liberating.

In my old job, I’d have clients who were in their 20s. Life experience is really valued in education and I’m an equal amongst my peers. I’m a mother, I’m 48, but I’m making new friends and feel really welcomed.

How did you cope with the change in salary?

As I met the criteria to train as a German teacher, I was able to access a bursary as German is a shortage subject. This is something I’m really humble about, but it has helped hugely in the transition.

What kind of support do you receive during your training as a teacher?

My mentor Stephen from Transition to Teach offers me validation in my career choice and support as I progress. I might get in touch about an assignment, or with a question that crops up from my placement. Stephen is a former headteacher himself, so there’s no situation or question that he doesn’t have the answer to.

It’s invaluable to have a mentor to call on who has such depth of experience in the field I’m moving into. I’ll receive support from Transition to Teach right through to the end of my first year as a newly qualified teacher.

After an unsettled year for children, what do you feel is the priority when children return to school?

Mental resilience is extremely important, particularly at the moment, for teachers and also for students. Many students and their families have suffered hardship during the pandemic, and we as teachers have to support our students to have the confidence to go back into school.

Students need to understand the benefits of talking through issues with others and learn to not be too hard on themselves internally. It’s such a different world now, and teaching positive mindset and practical ways to develop mental resilience are crucial.

What’s your advice for others thinking about teaching?

For those considering teaching, I would say that whilst it’s a lot of hard work, you get lots of support so you don’t get overloaded. It costs £1 to put in a UCAS application, and if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you too could be teaching.

What is Transition to Teach?

Transition to Teach is a Department for Education funded initiative that supports eligible career changers into the teaching profession, with a renewed focus for 2020 of supporting those who have been made, or are at risk of, redundancy.

The project is part of the UK government’s commitment to invest over £10 million to support career changers into the teaching profession. The Transition to Teach programme was developed to promote, identify and support new career opportunities to successful professionals interested in changing their careers.

The scheme focuses on encouraging potential teachers to recognise how their existing skills and experience can be applied to the classroom environment, to make a positive impact on young people and to provide an outstanding level of education across the country. Transition to Teach is delivered through Cognition Education