Helping Career Shifters to Teach Now (with her company Now Teach), Katie Waldegrave
This week, I’m speaking with Katie Waldegrave.
Katie has had various career shifts of her own, both as a teacher and a writer. However, her current calling is helping other “second-chapterers” (aka career shifters) transition into teaching through her organisation, Now Teach. Katie and I talk about her life as a teacher, the fascinating people who have chosen teaching as their next career, and why teaching may be woefully undervalued to begin with.
For more on Now Teach: https://nowteach.org.uk
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
Katie has had various career shifts of her own, both as a teacher and as a writer. However, her current calling is helping other second chapters, AKA career shifters, transition into teaching through her organization. Now. Katie. And I talk about her life as a teacher, the fascinating people who have chosen teaching is their next career.
And why teaching may be woefully undervalued to begin with.[:
But it's a really fascinating kind of collision of different worlds. And it feels that if they can manage it well, which they can, this kind of positive collision is exciting to see what emerges.[:[:[:[:[:
so I'm really excited to talk to you about your various. We can call them shifts if you prefer. And of course, I think you're gonna be really inspirational to people who are debating maybe a career shift as well.[:[:[:
I think just those stories that families tell. I think that probably got me interested in history, but I don't really think I had any idea what I was gonna do beyond university that has already seemed like the kind of end goal with university. And then you think, oh God, something next. And then. Like so many things in probably everyone's life, but certainly my life total bit of chance, luck, whatever I was had a conversation with someone who was starting up this thing called teach first, which was modeled on teach for America.
But it didn't exist yet. And the idea was it was encouraging people into disadvantaged state schools was a kind of aspirational thing to do with the commitment that you'd taught for a couple of years. And that seemed to me. Great idea. I had spent my gap year in India. Teaching loved it, very different context, but nonetheless, there was something in it.
I'm the oldest of four, maybe that helps with the whole teaching body. Very bossy. My siblings would probably say, and then. Yeah. So I just signed up all the kind of other people were doing the, doing the rounds of the management consultants and banks and all that. I just couldn't see myself heading down that route.
And this seemed like a nice option. Not least cuz you left university in the July or whatever and started teaching and indeed earning a bit in the September. So yeah, it didn't seem like a very well thought through plan, but it worked[:[:[:
I don't think this would be the age for[:
And it's an important, exciting term and it's obviously very formative and a really interesting one to be a teacher.[:[:a couple. And so since then, [:
So my children are off often. I am technically a person of Indian origin, which I'm very proud of.[:[:
So definitely all the noises. And I would have say 60 kids in mind, but next door, another sixties, another 60. So the noise was pretty intense, and I was teaching them English as in history, but it was just such fun because in a way that is much harder for reasons, it makes sense, but you were properly part the community there.
So every, if I'd wanted to, I could have been gone out for, and a child's, family's home every evening. Because as the teacher, I was encouraged, assumed to be a part of the community in a way that we have put up more boundaries and they make sense from child protection points of view and everything.
Whereas when I went to teach, when I started teaching in London, I was teaching in Hounslow, which is just near the just under Heathrow airports, which is why the teachers always said it doesn't they're loud. They have to be loud. But This is not many miles from where I'd grown up in west London, but it was another world.
And truthfully, I belonged to it much less than I ever did to the world of my students in India because of, schools in school. And that's right. And as it should be under our system, it's fine. But it is. I think that was for me, one of the very different, the great differences in the experience was that I was absolutely a part of the school community, but not part of their community outside of school at all.[:[:
Has been, saying, gonna do on its own, but there's something about the status of teaching and the profession, which is wrong. I mean, I strongly believe it's one of the most important, if not the most important, and it doesn't, it doesn't feel like that in here or in the us, from what I understand either.[:[:
And I think, teach fair teacher for America, those sorts of initiatives around the world have done something to contribute, not totally coly, but they've done something to contribute. I kind of hope, for now teach, which is bringing later stage. Changes into teaching would be that, you know, if you have a whole bunch of lawyers and doctors, I know other successful people thinking now what I wanna do with my life is teach that does something similar to say, this is an aspirational choice.
This is an important thing to someone with a whole bunch of options. And they think what they wanna do with their life is this is something[:[:
And to teach these students, it was extracurricular and they would publish a book at the end. It was all sounded lovely. And he was telling me about this cause I was interested obviously as a teacher And I got a bit chippy and was all well, it's fine, but but those students are gonna be fine.
Anyway, these are the kids who have it all. It's the kids in the school like mine who need it. And so to his eternal credit, he said they're paying me so well, I'm gonna consider it that they're paying for me to do another day as well. And came into my school and I rounded up some students where this is not a culture.wasn't at that stage a lot. [:
I remember in the room we were doing it, which none of us understood quite, but there was this shopping troll. So in the end, our anthology that we wrote was called. Actually knew it wasn't, it was called on a Wednesday. So we did it on a Wednesday and then the front cover picture was of a shopping trolley that will persuaded an artist for the new Yorker to do, which is rather brilliant.
Something magical happened. This group of six formers began to write. And first of all, they were writing I know, sort of Harry Potter ripoffs everybody was a wizard or something and they were all at park boarding schools in London and they were certainly all called things like Harry and I didn't.
There's one white student in that group, you know, this was not a school where people were called things like Harry and, hame or whatever. And in, by the end they were writing about the memory of a grandmother cooking. In Afghanistan or whatever it might have been. That was true.
And of course, by then, you can build in the fantasy sort of plot, but they were understanding something about their own stories and their own voices being important. And that being the kind of stepping off point for greater creativity. So it was very powerful, very moving and we decided that we would try and do this beyond just my school and.
Give up a bunch of writers, raise some money and try and launch this scheme in other schools. And so at that point, coming back in a very long winded way, your question about the PhD, I had also been working on an ma and writing and I got a book offer totally separate to write about. And I was writing about the daughters of Wordsworth and the romantic.
And so it seemed like a time there were these two projects. I had the first story, the writing charity and the book, and I didn't have children. I didn't have more museum. It seemed like a good time to take a bit of a risk.years. I think it came out in:
I was very lucky to study under Catherine Hughes was a great biographer. And if I'm honest, it was the PhD was the most brilliant way of just holding the accountable self making, to have every sort of few months a session in the British library with Katherine, where she would know if I hadn't written anything was brilliant.[:
I would need that accountability, whether I was writing a book or getting a PhD because, oh, I've got months. Oh, I've got days.[:
It was a huge luxury and a fantastic thing to be able to do and a part of myself. If you like that, I hope. Return to at some point there hasn't been a lot of writing in the last few years, and I don't wanna completely lose that, that I dunno that part of my identity, I suppose[:[:
So when I get sort of Ang anxious about that, I think well, you all too soon, those little children will. Will not need me quite so much in quite the same way now. I hope you'll need me, but it won't be quite such a time intense things in the same way. And that's perhaps where I'm writing slots in.[:
Story past 35, past 45 past 55. And I really, I love the idea of women telling their stories and that those stories don't end at a certain age, but it was really interesting what you said too about these kids that maybe had been brought up, knowing popular culture that they couldn't really necessarily see themselves then and getting the opportunity.
And I'm assuming, that grew as the school's group, but getting the opportunity to tell their own story in some.[:[:[:
And you see it from a bit of a distance and I think that's awesome what they're doing now. you know, it's, it's a good thing.[:[:[:[:
But the other was that we were trying and failing and trying and failing to have a successful pregnancy. And that was tough. And part of the question you, you know, everyone says, oh, you didn't be stressed. Another miscarriage, you shouldn't be stressed and I'm not sure. I even think there's a link, but you don't wanna do anything that.
Would cause you to have a regret. Part of the reason stopping also that I felt like we'd got, I got to a bit of, I step out the call and my friends were having children and they probably all weren't, but it felt like it. So the opportunity came up to go to India with my husband's work and I got a job teaching and only university there.
And we thought if we're not gonna have children, we should go and do something that would be harder to. With kids. And I kept coming back for IVF. I still had some embryos here cause we'd gone on down that road. And of course, you know, we were that couple were, the last embryos and all of that.And so I came back in:
You might have come a brilliant columnist. And she had been introduced to, we were introduced by somebody because she was interested in becoming at the age of 58 or 57, a teacher. And she didn't quite know what next steps and so on, whether it was a good idea. So. My main reason for wanting to hang out with her was adult conversation.
And so she came in the morning and we held one of these tiny little babies each and they really were little and talked to, and Daton by the time she left that evening, I think now had been born probably. And one of the things I mentioned the babies. So particularly because we had both also read this book hundred year life, which you've probably come across[:[:[:[:
And we got tons of stuff wrong, of course, along the way. But I think in that little insight we were right. That there's more people than ever who reach a certain age over. It might be for them. And think I don't wanna be doing this for the next 20, 30, 40 years. But I'm not sure what I do want to be doing and actually there's time and the possibility of starting all over again.n the autumn of of September,:is the same that we recruit [:
She's good story.[:[:
I just love it. So there's just amazing bunch of different, very different people. And it's been just such a huge privilege talking to people, seeing them, understanding what it is they want from this next chapter. And and helping them if teaching is, is right for them.[:[:
And maybe there's an overlap, a lot of them say people have always said, I'd be a teacher and I never, for whatever reason. They didn't do it. And so they're trying to figure out how the system in the UK is ridiculously complex, but also that people not sure everybody's first question, whether they're 35 or 65 is always, I think are probably too old.
Aren't they so, which our answers obviously? No, of course not. But they feel like maybe they're not wanted or their skills wouldn't be useful or they're just, I don't, they mean so many different things. Don't we, when we say, I think I'm too old, A mixture of, I don't suppose I can, then I don't suppose the community be welcoming of me.
I dunno. A whole bunch of things put up in that phrase.[:[:[:[:
But I think that there's a very, I mean, or that whole grown meeting is a horrible image for so many reasons, but you're right. Of course it is there in teaching and links to this idea of of whether. I think one of the things that attract people to now is cause you still become, people have often become, have teachers at different stages, nothing stopping anyone, but I think it can be very helpful when in the process of losing one identity and creating a new one to have a gang of people, to attack yourself to, or a thing to almost hook your coast on and say that's what I'm part of.
This is what I'm involved in. It helps you make sense yourself and to other people. Which is important. You know, you, you kind of You can explain yourself to yourself, I guess, and feel a little confident And then in a very practical sense, having this gang of people that you're doing it with, we offer all kinds of support that I know is brilliant.
And the program team are incredible. Absolutely. Truthfully, I think the single biggest thing we give them is each other is, people who get it, people who understand what it feels like.[:[:n you have a bunch of former [:
film within the English curriculum it can go on and on it's everything from the kind of curriculum technical skills through to the bringing in networks of professionals to, from careers perspective. All the way up to actually shifting the way systems operate sometimes in schools now, I'm not for a second suggesting, oh, look, we've got this army of people who are coming into revolutionary schools and make them all better.
And we be very careful that we're not suggesting that they can instantly change everything, but it's a really fascinating kind of collision of different worlds. And it feels that if they can manage it well, which they can, this kind of positive collision is, is exciting to see what, what emerges.[:[:
first it's differently.
Hard. I mean, I think it's hard when you're 22, if you've never been very good at a profession. Cause you dunno if you'll ever. Manage anything that's hard, but it's differently difficult if you've been brilliant at something. And suddenly you're the bottom of the hierarchy and schools are hierarchical and you can't figure out the technology, let alone how to keep your year nines under control.
That's quite brutal for a while. But actually being the one who can say when they're looking for speakers for a six form, something or other, oh yeah, no, I can easily find us a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant, whatever, you know, That's helpful. And then as time goes by, of course, yes, those skills, the things you are bringing in the part of yourself, the way you relate to the world, the way life it's.
Yeah. It's just hugely valuable. And I think part of our job is to say that even though in the first couple of years, it isn't sometimes obvious to now teachers. That their previous skills are valuable or will ever be valued. I'm always interested in this point of not so much the, that aha moment of career change, and I'm gonna do it, but the sort of one year on slug part, okay, everybody was interested.
And I said this now I'm just doing it. And I don't think I'm actually very good at it. What now?[:
do you find people that maybe avoided becoming a teacher the first time around because they were rebelling against this? You should do this.[:
They worked really hard. They got the best grades to get the best job, which wasn't necessarily something they loved, but it was the hardest thing they could do. It was the, and they suddenly get to certain age and they think I never even really enjoyed that. I would've liked, you know? and then they begin to think about what do they like, what indeed have they enjoyed in their career.
And very often it's mentoring younger colleagues and teaching them the ropes and so on. which isn't exactly. Rebellion at that early stage, perhaps, but almost rebellion later of saying all I've done is obey the rules and pass all the exams. You know, that kind of person, I think there is a kind of act of rebellion to say I, I don't use that anymore.
There's also a liberation, I think to, to sometimes, and I know talking to someone like Lucy be very open and saying when she was 22, she wanted the status that came with. Being at the FTN I think probably particularly as a woman, she wanted that, to sit next to some man at the dinner party who says, what do your husband do?
And she can say well, I am a colonist AST that, that, you know, she, she almost needed that first. And that's okay. Status does matter to us, but perhaps then you can redefine status later on and say, this is a more important kind of status that I'm gonna reclaim or something.[:don't have to worry as much.[:[:
But if you were lucky enough to reach an age where your mortgage is paid off, your kids move out, suddenly you probably are cash rich at them. You've been for years and years and years. And that's a moment that for a lot of people that think well, actually the big thing I wanted to use and make money for was to secure home and to raise my kids.
And if I've done that, then suddenly I'm a little freer. To think about what next, and that's a hugely luxurious position compared to teachers who've, 23 year olds, who've got to climb up that mountain. So, Yeah. And by no means I'm most suggesting that everybody is in a wealth position.
The fact is that teaching is probably better paid than people. Imagine, I often think especially if you do want to go up the ranks and by the time I head teach it right. It's comparable to, I don't know, civil service for sure. So it's a weird combination of, it's not only salary that takes away from the status.
I think it's more complex than that. Why we don't value teachers enough,[:[:
They knew they would perhaps liked it at 25 and felt that you. They ought to do something higher earning and mostly it's bad, the gender pay gap, but there is just a tiny little bit in there that means that maybe we have. Lower expectation, which gives us freedom. Anyway, I definitely have had multiple times the conversation with a man who says, I just couldn't have done it at 25.
It would've been the failure, but now at 55, this is what I really wanna do. But of course, I think if you have a bunch of 55 year old men going into a career, I hope boldly, but I hope that does help boost the status because you are right. It's low status like nursing, cuz it is still overwhelmingly female.[:
What's gonna make them happy and that therefore they should be better.[:[:[:
And I think I've had that conversation two or three times now in my. Life where you know as you're having it, that this could really change anything. I had it in a pub with William fines I had it with Lisa, Kellaway holding a baby. And more recently I had it with a journalist I'm about to try and start a thing called about now, like maybe called now foster, but about trying to get more people into foster care.
And it was just a conversation about why can't we can do this for teaching. Could we do it for other things? And I think it's when you have all those kind of late. Random, totally random sets. The more of those you have them. I think that's better. So talking, but then also once you're doing something, just talking to everyone who you can possibly persuade to be a supporter and advocate, give you advice, filter to cry on.
I just think surrounding yourself by smart people is a good thing.[:[:[:
Oh, I'm saying something that it's exciting to me and you might never have thought of it, but somebody says, oh, I'm thinking about going into teaching. Do you have any advice? Actually I have a lot, actually. Maybe I should have a new startup[:know where in the world they [:[:
So I can't exactly complain about that.[:
Takes them off in a direction where they start trying to change something. And, we have these conferences every year and during COVID, they're excellent. Everyone's getting 10 out of 10 for all of our, you know, they're filling in lovely forms and saying all the speakers are great and that's fine.
But actually the whole point really is the conversation. And they happen in the coffee Q or over lunch really don't they? So I'm excited to have much more opportunity to do stuff with their teachers altogether.[:[:[:[:
And I just think is so powerful. This idea that we have some kind of a control over, you know, people always think, oh, just your instincts or be strategic kind of stuff. And I think so much of the time, yes. Luck. And I can tell them my story and vaguely make it so here now, but never feels like it at the time.
Does it? And I'm a bit devious about planning. It's kind. Or something, But the other one that just the person that I find very inspiring. And while he's talking about both genders, I think it plays to women in particular purpose is that the only growing natural resource is older people. And so often we see older life, extending life and so on as being all these older problems of older age and health span and all these things that are very important and difficult.
Fundamentally, we are very likely to live a lot longer than our grandparents did in better health. And there's a lot of luck involved in that and unequal and all that, but it's incredible. It's amazing gives the opportunities to the kind of conversations about life that we are having, but also as in our teach and I hope one day now foster it is this amazing resource.
We often think of it as a kind of drain, which clearly. Clearly it isn't and some of the biggest problems I think will be solved by older people. Yeah. We just need to recast it anyway. So I love mark Friedman and I love the way he talks about older age.[:
A few minutes drive. So she'd pop by when we were having a hard time and bring my mom something to service for dinner, or, you know, we're not seeing that, but then at the same time, we're starting to appreciate the older generation again. I hope, I think more so I do think what a resource and what a shame it would be.
If things like now teach didn't exist to draw on.[:
Isn't it. We got. Them sort of mix mix all the generations up and keep 'em together. And we, yeah, we had the great privilege of living with my parents through lockdown and, astonishing that, the way those relationships work between grandparents and children is an important one. I think.[:
talk about your many chapters. I look forward to knowing more about when the second book comes sometime in the future, knowing about now foster and everything as well.
So thank you so much for coming and chatting with me today, Katie.[:[: