From Lawyer to Teacher - Vaughan Spurdle (C16)

Voices - 7 June 2017

2016 Cohort participant, Vaughan Spurdle, shares his reflection on changing careers, from lawyer to teacher.

There is so much that I love in my role working with young people. It would be fair to say I have loved (almost) every minute of the Teach First NZ experience. I say almost because it’s not a walk in the park - your students deserve your best self, every day and this requires plenty of energy!

Before I joined Teach First NZ, I had a fast paced but (mainly) enjoyable twenty year career in law and finance. I enjoyed the challenges it provided me but at some point I realised that I needed a career change to something where I felt like I was making a real difference in the community.

As I started to consider a career change, the stars aligned and the Teach First NZ website appeared on my computer - luckily just in time for the last intake at the end of 2015. A few months later I found myself embarking on what has been my greatest but most rewarding challenge to date.

Teaching is the most difficult job I’ve ever had, challenging me in so many ways at once. I need to manage almost one hundred interpersonal relationships, while balancing support, encouragement and well-planned, engaging lessons. Luckily, my previous experience as a lawyer and manager in a corporate environment helps with this, and the students are fascinated by the idea that I would rather be here teaching them. Also in the role of staff representation on our Board of Trustees, I get to call on my previous skills and experiences.

One of my favourite things about being a teacher is working with young people (who are infinitely more brilliant, insightful and funny than they will ever know). The students definitely hate my off-the-cuff rapping and frequently moan at my “dad jokes” but I think it’s important to be yourself as you really bring your whole self to the classroom.

Watching my learners develop and helping to shape and develop them is the most rewarding experience that comes with a lot of responsibility - molding and shaping a future generation is by far the most important work I have ever done. Getting this far wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Teach First and especially my Cohort 2016 whānau.

For anyone considering a change in career, I would challenge you to see what you are capable of! I never really knew until I started teaching and I don’t have a single regret about the career change I’ve made. I enjoy the enormous and varied challenges that teaching brings and I work each day to become a better teacher. As for my dad jokes? Unfortunately for my classes, they are here to stay.