Moving into language teaching

Charlotte Hand talks to about how she transitioned from a career in point of sales to teaching languages at a secondary school.


Throughout her working life Charlotte Hand has often thought of teaching as a possible career.

As an A Level student, a careers adviser told her she should consider teaching German, but she decided she wanted to go and see the world instead. After graduating in German and business, she sold make-up displays to global clients, but still the idea of teaching was in the back of her mind.  She enjoyed training colleagues and, after becoming a mum, she got involved with school life, becoming a school governor when her daughter, now 12, was at primary school.  She considered teaching again, but felt primary school teaching was not for her because she wanted to use her languages.  “It went on the back burner, gently bubbling under,” says Charlotte.

It was not until her company was making redundancies last year that she took action. She couldn’t face finding another job in point of sales so she started investigating teaching, encouraged by her colleagues and her HR director who suggested she look at the Transition to Teach programme.

Transition to Teach is a Department for Education-funded service delivered by Cognition Education supporting eligible career changers into teaching, with a revised focus for 2020 on those at risk of redundancy. Transition to Teach will support over 100 people this year prior to, and during, their initial teacher training and during their first year as newly qualified teachers.

Into teaching

Once Charlotte had set her mind on teaching everything snowballed. She finished work in May and started teacher training in September. “It was a 30-year process,” she says.

Charlotte is learning on the job at a school in Derbyshire which promotes language learning and has a high pass rate. She will do another placement later in the year and throughout the year will also be studying at the University of Derby. She started at her first school in October instead of September due to Covid and has been doing one day a week at the school. From next month, however, that will increase to four days a week. Most of her university work so far has been online.

It’s been a strange time to start teacher training and Charlotte admits that when she applied nearly a year ago Covid was still confined to China. She says she is not phased by standing in front of school children, having worked in a highly stressful atmosphere and having made presentations when “lots of things could go wrong at any time”. “It feels quite natural,” she says. She adds that she also had some early teaching experience during Covid, teaching her own daughter who is dyslexic. Her first university assignment is on inclusivity and she will focus on dyslexia in German language learning.

Charlotte’s training is funded by a generous government grant because languages are among the subjects being prioritised for teacher training. She also has a mentor at her school and Transition to Teach put her in touch with other learner teachers. “Transition to Teach has been really helpful,” she says. “It feels like you have someone on your side. They will be helping me for my first two years. Teaching can be a lonely profession so it is good to be able to draw on people to help you with your teaching practice. They provide practical and academic support, checking in on you to help you with the application process and finances. It put me in a better position. They made it easier for me to focus on the things I need to do.”

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