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Early motivations for considering teaching

Watch this video where the team discuss what initially drew them into teaching.
Exploring your motivations to teach
BEN OAKLEY (Professor of sport education) : The three of us working on this course cast our minds back to when we were in the same position as you.
SARAH STEWART (Director of PGCE programmes in Wales) : And like a lot of young graduates, I was really excited and keen to get stuck into the next stage of my life and had a view that I should be a professional. But I was still really searching, I think. I was really at a crossroads in my life before I decided to become a teacher.
AZUMAH DENNIS (Senior lecturer management & leadership) : Well, I don’t think I can really remember a moment where teaching was something I decided to do. It’s just something that I’d always wanted to do. So I did a degree in sociology and a PGCE. It just seemed like the obvious thing to progress onto.
BEN OAKLEY: The picture of me here in the 1990s - it’s very embarrassing, but it’s me posing on a windsurfer. The thought of working in an office was not for me. Being outside was what I was interested in. And I really started being interested in being an outdoor education instructor. And this day was a very cold day, as you can see. It was freezing. I’m pleased I followed that passion, but I soon realised that perhaps working in outdoor education, the prospects and pay weren’t that great. So I sort of changed tack and moved towards teaching.
What were your circumstances as you initially thought about teaching?
SARAH STEWART: Well, I initially was starting to look at a law career. I remember I was studying English in a university in London, and it seemed like a very sensible thing for an English graduate to go and do. And so I had a bit of a lightning bolt moment, I suppose, when I realised that something I’d been enjoying doing, working with children and young people through a project I’d been involved at, at the university, and the love of my subject could all be done if I became a teacher.
BEN OAKLEY: What about you, Azumah?
AZUMAH DENNIS: I did my PGCE initially thinking that I would complete it and start work in a secondary school. But I got to the end of it, and I realised that being in a school environment just really wasn’t for me. And so I got a substantial job in my local college. I absolutely loved being in a college environment, working with adult students who had returned to study, who had left school, who hadn’t been particularly successful, and within a few years of being in a college, they’d managed to turn their lives around completely. And that really suited me.
SARAH STEWART: Azumah, so interesting what you said about finding yourself in FE somewhat unexpectedly. I think if I could go back and speak to my younger self, I’d get them to really think about what age that I wanted to teach. Because I loved English so much, I automatically thought I’ll be a secondary teacher, a high school teacher, because that was the subject that I loved teaching. But I actually came to find that I loved teaching lower school pupils. And I think I probably would have found myself a very happy primary school teacher.
What specifically drew you to teaching?
SARAH STEWART: So one of the things that really appeals about teaching is that it allowed me to combine what I could see was a lot of intellectual rigour with the practicalities of working in a hands-on way with people in a classroom. So I think that, that was really appealing to me.
BEN OAKLEY: For me, it was the… I was teaching a lot of water sports. And I could see… you can see people improve in front of you. You know, within half an hour, they’re doing something different. And the satisfaction of seeing those improvements, that was a real thing that motivated me to get into teaching.
AZUMAH DENNIS: I think I really liked the idea of being able to help people to make a real difference to their life. I’d always worked in adult education and typically people coming to an adult education institute, and it’s a change of direction for them. And it really appealed to me, being part of that transformative process.
BEN OAKLEY: OK, thanks everyone. To finish with, we want to ask, what single word or phrase you would use to sum up this period when you were trying to decide to teach, to take up this fantastic vocation? I’ll take the lead and I’d say I was conflicted and uncertain.
SARAH STEWART: I was excited and nervous, probably in equal measures actually.
AZUMAH DENNIS: I’d say I was excited, yes, but also absolutely determined that I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and I was doing it.
BEN OAKLEY: So there you have it.
In the video, Sarah, Azumah and Ben explain what they did in the years before they made the decision to pursue teaching, and why they were initially drawn to teaching.

They also each reveal the single word or phrase that sums up the period when they were thinking about becoming a teacher.

Sarah Stewart

“I started my teaching career fresh after finishing a degree in English Literature. I worked with children and young people as a volunteer in my teens and through university, and these experiences taught me a lot about the lives that children lead and how their backgrounds can affect their educational opportunities. I have always felt a deep commitment to ensuring all children get the best chance at an education. Now, working on a teacher education programme gives me the opportunity to share that passion and commitment for learning with many other aspiring teachers – so that they, too, can go out and transform children’s lives.”
Azumah Dennis
“Once I finished university, teaching was the obvious career choice for me, but it didn’t go the way I planned. I chanced upon adult education. I started slowly – a few hours here and there soon built up into a full-time job, followed by a career. I have never once looked back. There is nothing I like more than being part of the transformational change in people’s lives that education makes possible.”
Ben Oakley
“I worked in my holidays teaching watersports and gradually realised that I enjoyed helping young people and adults improve. I relished the challenge of working out how to present and explain information to different groups in varying ways. Now an important part of my teaching at The Open University is writing courses like this one with specific audiences in mind, and exploring how to teach new topics. For me, teaching in all its forms has an element of creativity, as you are trying to find innovative ways to capture people’s attention and encourage their interest in a topic.”

In the following step, you will hear from two new teachers who have recently changed careers to become teachers.

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Becoming a Teacher

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