Skip to content

Emma’s Story: Market research to further education teaching


Before having children I worked as an international market research consultant for a large media group. After my first daughter was born I continued as a freelancer. With my second daughter came the decision to take a break. The work was stimulating and rewarding but the hours were long and unpredictable.

When my younger daughter entered Reception I decided it was time for a strategic career review. Luckily this revelation coincided with our 10th wedding anniversary, so over a candlelit dinner in a country house hotel in the Cotswolds, my husband and I, slightly boozily, explored the options and thrashed out the practicalities.

The idea of teaching English to foreigners had been simmering away for some time. Teaching as a career had always been at the back of my mind, and as a graduate in French and German, I had an interest in languages and language learning. I decided to go down the route of teaching new immigrants and refugees. I felt this would enable me to tick the “Is this worthwhile?” box, and, as the daughter of a refugee, I was also interested in exploring the experiences of those new to the UK. This would mean teaching in a Further Education or Community College, which would have similar term and holiday dates to my daughters’ schools. I knew I wanted to teach adults, as I felt unequal to coping with the discipline and crowd control issues which would inevitably arise with younger learners.

I found a six month CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course at an FE college in the area. The course was one day a week and every Tuesday my husband took one afternoon out of his annual holiday allowance, picked up the children from school, took them to swimming lessons, and made us supper. He says that these Tuesday afternoons remain some of his happiest memories. (In fact, I was delighted to be relieved of sweaty changing room duties, so everyone was happy!) The course was excellent: extremely well taught, stimulating and challenging. On completion I was offered some hours teaching at the college where I had studied. And 10 years later, I’m still there, now teaching about 12 hours a week.

I really enjoy my second career, and have never had any doubts about the decision I made. The students are what makes the job so fascinating and fulfilling. Many of them have escaped from terrible situations overseas, and are struggling with life here, but they love coming to college and are massively appreciative of the opportunity to learn. Ironically, as well as teaching adults, I also teach groups of 16-18 year olds, who have proved just as demanding a cohort as I imagined, but also a lot of fun!

I am on a zero hours contract, but, despite its notoriety, this has suited me well and has given me the flexibility I want. I have been able to contribute to a Teachers Pension and I am paid for any staff development sessions I attend. Now my kids are older I am thinking of applying for a permanent part time post, which would mean higher remuneration, holiday pay and more job security. Of course, the pay level is not high, but I never came into this for the money! Or the status!!

Teaching is a wonderful career. Every lesson is a new adventure. Frustratingly, you very rarely feel you’ve taught a perfect lesson, but when it does go well, and you can see good learning happening in front of you, you’re flying!