GUEST COMMENT: Why I switched from banking to teaching

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I was approaching my 40th birthday when I was laid off by Bear Stearns. By that age, investment bankers are supposed to have made enough money so that they can leave the industry if they want to. I'd been able to pay off my mortgage and was financially secure enough so that a huge salary was no longer essential.

The long hours I'd been working - leaving the house at 6.45am and getting home around 9.30pm - meant the only time I saw my three young children was at the weekend. I didn't initially intend to enter teaching, but I knew I wanted something that was both intellectually challenging and would allow me to spend more time with my family.

After six months testing the water with various forays into business, I decided teaching ticked all the boxes for what I was looking for, and managed to secure a place on the Graduate Training Programme at my local school.

This is an alternative to the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), and is basically 12 months of on-the-job training. From day one, you're in the classroom and have a 60% teaching timetable. The downside is that if you're not confident, the students will tear you apart. The upside is that I was able to earn over 20k, rather than the 6k-9k you get during the PGCE, which certainly helped.

As an investment banker you're used to selling yourself, and spend a lot of time meeting and pitching to clients. These presentation skills help when you're attempting to win over a class of 30 unruly teenagers.

The fact is, not everyone is able to become a teacher. One investment banker I know went into teaching for altruistic reasons and deliberately chose a difficult inner-city school. He stuck at it for a couple of years, but by the end he was destroyed and chucked it in to become a plumber.

Investment banking affords you a lot of privilege, whether it be the pay, staying in nice hotels while away on business, commanding the respect of your colleagues, or simply being able to delegate work. As a new teacher, you tend to start out as the lowest of the low - the kids can treat you like dirt and teachers look at you like you're the trainee, so it can be a culture shock.

Undoubtedly, the first few years in teaching are tough, but right now I am among like-minded, supportive people. I never expected to get such a huge amount of satisfaction from the job. Financially, it's meant we've had to adjust our lifestyle and be more careful with money, but I'm more than willing to trade that for doing a job I enjoy immensely and spending more time with my family.

Kevin Watson started his City career in 1987. He worked in the oil and gas corporate finance division of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, before switching to its telecoms sector in 1998. In 2000, he was headhunted by Bear Stearns to work as a managing director within their newly-established telecoms team and was eventually made redundant in 2003 as the sector took a turn for the worse. He now teaches Physics at Watford Grammar School for Boys.

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