Marie | History | Secondary school teacher.

Marie shares her journey teaching at a renowned boarding school, exploring the connections between her PhD studies and her current role as a History teacher. She reflects on the expectations she and her supervisor had, her previous work with young people, and the overall value of her PhD experience. Marie discusses how well her work and environment fit her and how her expectations evolved throughout her PhD. She also touches on the attitudes of her family and friends towards her studies.

Admitting that networking wasn’t her forte, Marie explains her motivations for pursuing a PhD and the steps she took to gain teaching experience during her doctoral studies. She recounts her decision to enrol in a PhD program, the career-related activities she engaged in, and her determination to complete her degree.

Marie highlights how her PhD benefits her employer and how her colleagues perceive it. She shares her job application process while finishing her PhD and reflects on her choice to teach in the independent sector. Considering the broader impact of her PhD on her work and life, Marie reflects on her departure from academia and contemplates her future.

Explore Marie’s journey further by clicking the links below:

The background to Marie’s PhD
The reasons behind her PhD
The meaning of the PhD
Marie’s PhD topic
Working during the PhD
Considering quitting
Support of family and friends
Marie’s expectations
Thoughts on networking
Finishing the PhD
Having a PGCE
Anticipating an academic career
Employer attitudes
Marie’s current role
Connections between the PhD and her current role
Building a career
Where her career is going from here
Any PhD regrets?
Any regrets about leaving academia?



Career Pathway



Turning Points



Audio Interview

The background to Marie’s PhD

Can you tell me, when did you complete your PhD? How many years did it take? And roughly how old were you when you started?

It took, three years and a term. When I started, I must have been about 25 I think.

Did you do the bulk of it full-time or part-time?

Full-time apart from the last term, just tidying bits off, which was kind of part-time.

And you were working at the same time?

Yeah. Tidying it off, yeah.

And how did you fund your study?

I got a grant from the AHRB for the three years of doing it.

And did you work beforehand?

Part-time jobs? Yes. And I had a year out after university where I just worked at a sandwich shop in London, which funded my undergraduate degree in, when was it? Totally had enough of university exams, et cetera. So I decided I was gonna join the police, join the police. Didn't make the graduate scheme.

Absolutely hated it lasted about six weeks. Decided it wasn't for me so I took the rest of that year out and applied for a Masters, got the funding for that. And in the meantime, till the Masters start of the following year, I just worked in a sandwich shop and worked my way up to kind of a team leader in the middle of Central London.

How did you make the decision to go into the police force?

It's actually related to an individual incident. I was mugged in my third year at university and the police that was involved with that dealt with it really well and I was thinking about careers and I thought, well, it looks interesting, diverse, exciting.

It's not in an office, it's the way it looked. Really exciting, so.

And did you enjoy the selection process?

The selection process was all right, although, because I was trying to do my finals at the time, I didn't take any notice of advising for the psychometric, psychometric testing and the maths test. As a result, I failed the maths test, which meant I didn't get on the graduate scheme, which kind of meant when I did join, I found it all a bit basic and almost patronising. Hence one reason for leaving.

And have you got any regrets for leaving the police force?

Absolutely not. No. Not at all.

Did it equip you with anything that you found useful subsequently?

I suppose it gives you skills of how to handle people generally, but I was there for such a short space of time. I don't think I really got anything massive from it. I just learned, you know, also different people out there and my view of the police that it'd be exciting, adventurous, actually dealing with the worst 2% of society if you like. And it's, it's not as rewarding as I thought it would be. So left the police applied for an MA which started the following September and in the meantime, which went to a sandwich shop, quite a well known sandwich shop in London, just as a normal sandwich maker. Which was kind of full of students. Had a fantastic time, just worked there for a year and kind of worked my way up. Was kind of offered management, which I didn't want to do, then went back to university to do the MA.

And what was your MA in?

My MA was in high churchmen, sort of from 1714 to 1760 from what I can remember.

And so your undergraduate degree was in History?

Yeah, my undergraduate was in, yeah, History, kind of specialising in the early modern stuff.

How did you reach the decision that you wanted to undertake a PhD?

I did the Masters, one year Masters, which I think is invaluable. Other people who go straight from the degree to the PhD and have really struggled, whereas the one-year Masters gives you an experience of what it's like. So I did that and I quite enjoyed it. I love the university lifestyle. Found it quite interesting. So I thought, you know, I'll apply, see if I get funding and if I do I might as well stay.

Was there any significant obstacles that you had to overcome in order to embark on the PhD?

Some people said, oh, it will close down doors when you look for a job and it's very specialised and you know, perhaps you should go straight into work and staff. But I haven't found that's happened at all. If anything, it's been the opposite.

The reasons behind her PhD

Can you remember why you decided to do a PhD?

I just finished the MA quite enjoyed the MA going back to research, year, it was great fun. I met lots of people, so I thought, right, I'll, I'll carry on. I'd also applied for the funding. Got the funding. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I was playing an awful lot of football to a very competitive standard and it fitted in really well with the football 'cause it meant I could train loads. So I thought, well, why not? I mean, it wasn't a really specific, I love academic, I love research more than anything in the world.

That's not the reason I did It was kind of, well, why not more than anything.

The meaning of the PhD

What is the value of your PhD to you?

To me, I did lack confidence before. It has given me massive confidence. It’s, it’s shown me that I can do anything that I put my mind to. And I didn't kind of believe in myself before. I mean, I got a first-class degree, but I didn't think I was that good. PhD, it's actually made me realise that I am, you know, quite intelligent and I can hold my own against people who I thought were miles and miles out of my league.

So it gimme confidence, not just in the academic world, but just the, everything I do.

Marie’s PhD topic

What was your PhD topic?

My PhD topic was “Political and religious language from the glorious revolution to the Bengali controversy”, which is kind of 1688 to 1720, which sounds very dull.

Did you enjoy it?

Yes, for the most part until the third year. I did quite enjoy it. I enjoyed the research at the start. I was supposed to carry on doing high churchmen and I absolutely hated them and thought I can't possibly do this in the first week, and my tutor helped me through that. And then I came to this topic, which I did find quite interesting for the most part.

Working during the PhD

Did you do any paid work during your PhD?

Yeah, I, took on a, a job, which is kind of a mobile activities team going to the most deprived areas around the county. I was at university and, and just, doing sports, organising sports that underprivileged, children between 8 and 18 years old.

How did you get involved in that?

During my undergrad years, I'd always kind of worked, like working with young people, so I did a couple of summer camps and then when I decided to carry on a PhD that this job just came up at the job shop at the university.

So I thought I'd apply for it and loved it from day one, really.

What did you gain from it, would you say?

Huge experience on how to work with young people, especially underprivileged and the skills that you need to, you know, discipline schools. As much as I learned on my PGCE, I learned with those children and just how to get on with them, how to motivate them, and just how work like that can be really rewarding.

Considering quitting

Did you think at any point during the PhD, “Well, I'm just gonna quit this because I, I've got the PGCE, If I want to teach, I can go and do it now. I don't have to put myself through this”?

I've always been really self-disciplined, so I would've seen that as a failure. So I don't even think I allowed the thought to cross my mind. I just got on with it and was thoroughly miserable to everyone around me whilst I did it. But, but I thought, “No, I've got to do this”. The only time I had doubts was one week into it. But my tutor said, “No, you can do it”. And then I was gonna do it.

It was just when and how long it would take.

Support of family and friends

I wonder how your family and friends felt about you deciding you wanted to do a PhD?

Yeah, quite supportive, really. I, I think the third year was the worst 'cause I was so fed up with it and I was in such a foul mood the whole time. Everyone couldn't wait for me to finish it. but no, no, quite supportive. And it kind of, no one was like, “Oh, you shouldn't do it”. Just, you know, as long as you enjoy stuff, just get on with it, type thing.

Marie’s expectations

Did you have any idea before you started on the PhD where it was going to lead you professionally?

No, I've kind of always enjoyed working with young people, so schools might be an obvious thing, but not specifically decided. No.

So you didn't have any clear idea of where, what would happen at the end of the PhD and where you would with the direction you would go in?

No, nothing specific. I mean, the idea of a lecture at the start was quite a nice idea, but I hadn't fully thought it through. I didn't really know what they did on a day-to-day basis or what it would consist of or how competitive it was.

So I just thought, I'm gonna enjoy my life, enjoy playing football and, and get this under my belt.

And then did, did you feel that you would think about the career after the PhD a little bit later on?

Well, I got to my third year and, my tutor was really encouraging me to go down the academic route, so I did apply for a couple of jobs. but then at the same time, I also applied for a school job just for kind of, just to see how I'd get on in terms of, you know, would I get rejected straight away.

And I was offered a maternity leave for that. Went into teaching for a term and, and thought, yeah, this is what, this is what I'm about, this is what I wanna do.

Thoughts on networking

Did you meet interesting and influential and helpful people that, that have given you some guidance?

My tutor had an awful lot of really good contacts with the subject area I was in, and I did get to meet them, but I was really bad at the way I would, I didn't want to go to conferences, I didn't want to go to seminars. I didn't want to do the whole making contact, being nice to people. So I didn't make anywhere near as much an effort as I should have perhaps done in that respect, especially if I was going into academia.

But I just didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy conferences and seminars. I dreaded them.

Can you, can you remember why you didn't really enjoy them?

I just, I just found the whole atmosphere quite daunting. I, I think it's a very competitive world. I think people are very institutionalised who stay in, in universities and the conversation is totally history dominated, which is obviously a good thing for some people. But I just found them quite so focused on their academic stuff that I couldn't have a well-rounded conversation with them.

Finishing the PhD

What sort of things were happening towards the end of your PhD say in the last year?

Last year, I was getting more and more miserable, more and more lonely. My tutor was encouraging me to apply for academic jobs. I was applying for some, I was getting rejected outright. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Hence applied for, for a teaching job, a decent school. Third year I wanted to finish my PhD in three years, which meant finishing it September so I was, I was thinking, “Right, what am I gonna do?”.

Then my tutor, it just so happened, was going on a sabbatical and had two terms off. And so his teaching needed to be covered. And he was extremely supportive and really pushed for it. And it meant that the head of department and whoever decides these things gave me a part-time lectureship. It was .60 and that was for a year. So September came, I was still just finishing off my PhD. And that came at the same time as I started this part-time lectureship, which lasted until September.

Finished the PhD during this part-time lectureship in January, and then started to think “What am I gonna do when my part-time lectureship finishes?” And that's when I applied for a job at a school. So I thought, not too sure if I wanna stay in academia, I'll have a look at schools.

Did you apply for any jobs in academia?

Yes. I was, the school application came after some academia applications when I was just getting rejected outright.

And then around the same time as I applied for the first school, I got an interview at a university and that's when I came second in that interview. Which I was quite relieved about because exactly almost the same week I had this interview at the school. Went to the interview at the school, didn't get the job, but then a couple of weeks later there was a maternity cover that came up at the same school and they offered me that.

Were there any differences that you can remember between those two interviews? For the one for the academic post and one for the teaching in the school post?

Oh, well I felt much more intimidated at the university one because it was kind of a, I had to give a presentation in front of about 10 lecturers and then had to be interviewed by three people in a panel, including the vice chancellor. So that, that was pretty daunting. And the other candidates seemed, you know, more qualified than me, written books, et cetera, which I hadn't done. So I did feel very much, you know, I was thought, I was amazed that I became runner up 'cause I thought I didn't have a chance at all.

In terms of the school, I thought I was really well qualified, but then as I said, the, the first question the headmaster said to me is, “Are you applying for a joke because you are too overqualified and you should be in academia?”. But I was much more confident in the school job. The interviews were one-on-one series of five interviews, one-on-one, and then you talk to class. And I was much more comfortable in that kind of atmosphere.

Do you think that the academic background and the academic interview prepared you for that school interview?  

Yes, in a way because the academic interview, I've never had anything as intense and quite as scary as that. So I think that would prepare me for any interview that came after. Because yeah, having to, I mean I did a conference, a really big conference, a seminar, a really big conference having to do that plus the interview, you know, when you are kind of talking to professors who have been doing your subject for years, that I found extremely daunting.

Whereas you go to a school, they haven't got the same knowledge as you have, so you can feel very confident.

So, you didn't get the teaching job, but shortly afterwards you were offered a maternity cover?

Yeah, the same school basically. I, I mean I think I was a bit hard done by to be fair because those two, they interviewed two applicants for the school job and one of them used to go to the school and did the sport that they did, which was rugby.

So I was kind of always in second place before the interviews even started. I, I think, but yeah, then was offered a maternity leave job in, in the summer term, which meant that I was kind of going backwards and forwards. 'cause the school was a good two hour drive, so I was teaching at that school and then also popping back to finish off my part-time lectureship in case of giving last minute revision lessons and also doing all the exam marking. So I mean it's quite stressful. It's quite busy period.

How interesting. So you're straddling the academic world and the boarding school?

Yeah for a term. Yeah. Which, which was quite hard work. Because you know, one minute I was marking university exams the next minute I was marking their last minute a level exams and sometimes it didn't seem that much difference really. Yeah, well in terms of the standard of the board, the school I was at was quite, they were quite intelligent students, some of them. And some of them, were, were far better than the exams I was marking for university.

And I certainly picked up when I was teaching 'cause some of these students at the school were exceptionally bright and had scholarships, et cetera and, and far brighter than the ones I just taught at university. So one reason why I was encouraged to go to school was some of the students are, are brighter than what I'm gonna find at university.

What happened after the period of maternity that you covered?

Right, I, I did the, the cover really enjoyed teaching thought this is definitely for me.

So I started looking for teaching jobs. The problem is teaching jobs always come out in February, March 'cause you have to give a terms notice. So I was looking too late. I was just looking at the kind of stuff that was left. I did apply to a school, I did get offered a job that was also a boarding school, but I wasn't sure I was gonna be a hundred percent happy. So I decided to, to wait a year, which means taking another year out. And I was like, “Oh, in terms of CV there might be too many, many gaps here”. But I did take a year out, I did a part-time teaching job at a London College.

I drove the safety bus for the, my university and carried on doing the sporting and other activities and just did, you know, lots of different part-time jobs to make ends meet. And then waited for all the teaching jobs to come out in January and February. Which they did. And obviously I had the pick of which school I wanted to go to in retrospect.

Was that year usefully spent and could you have done anything differently if you did it again or did it work out well?

It worked out quite well because I actually taught, the London College I taught at, I taught RS at A Level which looks good on my CV because it's another subject I can offer. Perhaps I should have, you know, pushed myself to get some more coaching awards or something else to add to my cv. But I mean, I quite enjoyed the year because it was chilled out. It was no research, it was completely different from academia. I didn't have to think I could just have a good year and, and I did that. The school I did maternity cover at because there was no jobs, decent jobs coming out 'cause they all get advertised earlier in the year i.e. February, March, someone at that school, the deputy had suggested I just write letters out. So I wrote letters attached my CV to, to schools that I thought it would be really good to work there. A couple of them, I got a couple of snotty replies saying “Don't even bother writing to us - jobs will be advertised in the Times Educational Supplement”, but I got one school who did reply saying “Thank you for your letter. We'll keep it on record as there may be a position coming up next year. We’ll write to you again in the future”.

So I just left it at that and then started looking for other jobs in September 'cause some schools do, put out adverts quite early. Found a really nice school and applied to it. Got an interview, meanwhile almost the same week my tutor was, was received a phone call asking for a reference for me for the school that I'd written the letter to. So it all ended up that I went to an interview at the other school that I applied for.

And the school who phoned my tutor said, whatever you do, don't accept the job until you've spoken to us. So I went for the interview at the initial school, was offered the job, asked 24 hours, asked for 24 hours to think about it. Then told the other school I'd been offered it. Ended up going from the interview of the first job rushing to the other school and the Headmaster interviewed me and also offered me a job. So within 24 hours I've been offered two jobs and had to pick which one I was going to take.

Were you able to play one off against the other a little bit?

I think, yeah, I think I got lucky, especially in terms of pay because the average, the typical question at a school is have you applied for any other jobs whilst you, you're sitting here being interviewed? And I said, yes, I've applied to another job and I've promised not to tell them not to give you an answer until I've spoken to them. And so all of a sudden the amount of wages I was gonna start on rose by about three or 4,000 pounds and then the other school upped it even more.

So yeah, I did, I got very lucky in that respect.

Mm-Hmm. And in terms of going from one interview to the other on the same day, in some ways you must have been buzzing coming out the first interview and did that help going into the second interview?

'cause it happened so quickly, I didn't really have time to think about it, which was quite good. And it almost because I came out the first lot of interviews and was quite confident I would get, I I'd got it 'cause I'd been offered it. I was quite relaxed on my second search, they probably saw the real me, which was quite good. Plus I didn't have to teach a lesson at the second school, which is always the worst part of the interview.

So yeah, I was, I was quite relaxed. It wasn't, you know, came out buzzing the final, you know, that evening I was on a real high.

And so did they tell you that day that you got the job?

No, but you can kind of guess and I thought that had gone really well and he said, “Right, I'll phone you tomorrow night and let you know” he phoned me tomorrow night and offered me the job. I spent two years in my first school, which I felt was about right that the school I went in initially was not that academically bright, brighter students were good, but but not excellent, which is quite nice in a way because just trying to find your way, find your feet in a first teaching job is quite difficult.

So I didn't feel I was challenged too much and didn't have to, you know, do loads of wider reading outside. So although I loved it at my first school, I was looking for perhaps more challenging brighter students. Plus I also wanted to move to London as, as my boyfriend lived in London.

And so I just waited for a school that the combined, the two and one one did come up. I was fortunate in that respect.

And then how did that interview for, for that job compare?

Yeah, it's about this kind of in boarding schools the interview is, is very similar in that you kind of get interviewed by five different senior management people and that went very well. He did question, there was a few gaps in my CV whilst, you know, I was having perhaps a gap year here, a gap year there.

But as long as I could explain those away, which I, I think I did quite well, it was fine. And again, the PhD certainly helps I think because it put me on a level with academically of any candidate who applied.

Did you ever apply for any other kind of jobs when you were doing a PhD or subsequently? I just wondered if you'd ever considered anything other than teaching?

I was offered that kind of management thing in the sandwich shop that, that 'cause whilst doing my PhD in the summer holidays when I needed more money, I still worked in the sandwich shop and I was offered a kind of management training scheme in that, but I just wasn't interested.

Why not?

Just because although it was good fun, it wasn't mentally that taxing. I was also the underprivileged children working for that. I was offered the equivalent position, I suppose as a sports development officer there. But, but again, although I loved it, almost missed the history as well. And just the mental challenge, which teaching history still gives me.

Having a PGCE

Because you had the PGCE, you could have got a job in a state school.


Can you talk me through your decision making about going for jobs in boarding schools?

Yeah. I did my PGCE, I did my PGCE experience at, at two state schools and I did really enjoy that. I also, working with the underprivileged children meant that I'd done about three or four years work with, with that kind of, of, of child or student. what I found infuriating at, at, at the schools I did my PGCE’s, is I was really willing to take a football team, in particular female football, but I spent half my time trying to run around, get the resources, get the backing, get some footballs, get some bibs, and I thought, I don't wanna spend all my time just chasing around getting the equipment.

I want it to be there so I can actually coach. I also found the parents of the children there really unsupportive. So, I mean, the children were fine, but, but the parents just didn't support what you were trying to do. So I did feel like I was banging my head against a brick wall. Whereas you come into the independent sector, all the facilities are there, all the encouragement's there.

My timetable is half, you know, well it's three quarters History, a quarter Sport. At a state school is obviously a hundred percent History. So I get to do my Sport, which I love as much as my History. So that's probably the main reason for it.

Do you think the PhD has helped you to be a better teacher than you would've been if you'd gone straight into teaching after the PGCE?

I think the main thing it has given me is, is confidence, because at the school I'm at, they insist on using the title, so I'm called Doctor.

And just that alone, I, I, I think gives me huge confidence and it also shows the students that I, I do know my stuff. And in terms of teaching A Level, the skills, I learned, the research skills, I learned the different websites, how to use and access websites and use, I dunno, encyclopaedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and stuff. I've used so much in my adult teaching. and in terms of helping them do their coursework, the PhD has put me miles ahead from, from what I, I would've had just with the PGCE.

So yes, I think it has helped significantly.

Anticipating an academic career

Did you anticipate an academic career at the end of it?

Kind of, I, I did feel that that's what the tutor I had would like to have seen me follow, and I did pursue that option for a little while, but then I realised academia was just not for me at all.

Employer attitudes

How do you feel your PhD is regarded by your colleagues and your employer?

Colleagues, employer… it definitely helped me get this job. I think, rightly or wrongly, boarding schools, independent schools like titles, they like to print them in their sort of, term books, et cetera. So I certainly think that gave me a big advantage in, in getting, this job.

Do you feel that your colleagues have any expectations of you?

I think they expect me to give a few more seminars than I do. 'cause I, I can't stand, once I finished my PhD, that very much was it in my eyes.

And I think there is a slight, well, perhaps you should be doing a bit more research over the holidays and stuff, but I'm just not personally interested in doing that. But that's the only slight negativity.

Marie’s current role

Where do you currently work?

I currently work at a very well known boarding school in London, secondary school, 13 to 18 at an independent school.

And what's your role there?

I'm a History teacher and I coach a variety of sports.

How long have you been working in that particular position?

In the current job, this is my first year, so just coming to the end of my first year. And then in teaching I was at another school in Reading for two years before the current job.

Can you tell me in some detail what your job involves on a day-to-day basis?  

Yeah. Day-to-day basis, it involves teaching all aspects of history to a range of, of boys at the moment between the ages of 13 and 18. Obviously teaching them, marking, lots of marking, getting them ready for exams. But then as much as you do that, I also spend almost the same amount of time coaching them sports, be it football, tennis, cross country, Duke of Edinburgh, that, that sort of stuff.

In terms of the topics, obviously different topics 'cause I teach A Level so that involves more specialist stuff that I'm interested in. But I've taught all sort of topics, stuff that I've never, ever done in my life. So it doesn't involve a wide range of things. Oh sorry. On top of that, I also, as it's a boarding school, I also do duty in a house. So one night a week I'll go up to a particular boarding house and just go around and see my duties and just see that the boarding house is fine and no one's wrecking the place.

Are you quite tied to the school in your free time?  

Yeah, it is because the school provides accommodation, so you kind of do sometimes feel that you're on site quite a lot. But so saying there's no registration or stuff, so you just do your lessons and then the rest of time is, is free time and of course you get really long holidays, which is a huge kind of bonus or attraction.

How is your week structured?

Monday to Saturday we teach Saturday mornings, do sports Saturday afternoons, lessons obviously in the day, Monday to Friday, sports Tuesday afternoons, Thursday afternoons.

And then, I mean, it is, it is quite a big time because you end up marking till about eight or nine o'clock at night. So I kind of do 12 hour days at the moment. That should get better my second year though.

Are there a lot of meetings and admin?

It's not too bad at this particular school it is not so bad, but there's lots of report writing, like twice a term you have to write reports 140 reports on different boys.

There's quite a lot in that sense, but not in terms of registration. So they don't do registration here, it's all done in the houses, so that's quite easy. So it could be much worse. It's a really big commitment in terms of time because obviously the boys are here 24/7 and someone's gotta look after 'em at some point and it's a six day week. You don't finish till Saturday at eight o'clock. At the same time, I'd say a big advantage over well state school is a particular school I'm at that the boys are bright, but also if you form relationships with them outside of the classroom, it makes it so much rewarding both inside and outside the classroom.

So I would go to a boarding school for those reasons. And most boarding schools do offer free housing, which is obviously, you know, about an extra 10-12,000 pounds a year.

Can you tell me what your physical work environment is like and what the working culture is like?

People work exceptionally hard at, at this school and it is quite competitive. I mean awful lot of Oxbridge people come and teach here.

Well the school is fantastically equipped. They've got, you know, smart boards in most classrooms. There's beautiful historic buildings. In terms of sporting facilities, they've got a full athletics, 400 meters running track. They've got an artificial football pitch, they've got two AstroTurf, they've got, you know, 20 tennis courts. Facilities are second to none. As in as is the accommodation they, they provide. So the physical environment, you couldn't actually find a nicer place to work in those terms.

Do you have your own classroom?  

Yeah, I have my own classroom. It's a bit small 'cause I'm the most junior member. You get the worst classroom. It is a bit small but it's part of a quite a well known historic famous building that's been used in Harry Potter and stuff. So I mean sort of the, the culture there is fantastic in history.

And how big is your department?

Department's got six members in the department, one or two or part-time. So it's kind of a medium sized department I suppose.

And in terms of the working culture amongst your colleagues…

It's there's not many females at this school, so it's a boys school, it's very dominated by men and that can be a barrier, but on the whole it's, it's fine.

There's some other older teachers you kind of get the impression they're a bit sexist, but on the whole very supportive and, and people are fine even though I'm not from Oxbridge. Well this is where the PhD comes in. I think that's certainly helped and kind of gains your respect amongst peers as well as amongst the boys themselves.

What are the best things about your job?

This one, current one? Just because it combines everything that I love. My two main sport, my two main loves in life are history, which I get to, you know, do all the reading, buy any books I want. So just carry on doing what I was doing with the PhD without the stress, plus the sport. which means I, I can coach it to a good standard now and I've also got all the facilities 'cause I still play where I can train and do exactly what I want plus the long holidays.

And what might be drawbacks?

I can't think of any horrific drawbacks. I mean there's some of my friends who've got PhDs who've kind of gone on to extremely well paid jobs in the city. So I suppose if, if anything you could talk about finance. But so saying I'm quite happy with the amount of money I get and the lifestyle I lead. So I don't think there's any, I suppose the only drawbacks is you do have to work hard in term time and you know, I don't get Saturdays off, I do work weekends, which is quite intense.

Are there any particular challenges in the school that you work in?

Yes, because I think you have to, they don't suffer. The boys are teacher quite intelligent. They don't suffer fools gladly. So you do have to make sure that they know they're confident that you know what you are talking about. So you do know your subject inside out and that's a challenge, especially when you get some of the brightest kids perhaps in the country challenging and asking you questions. I mean, some of the questions I get asked are well beyond those I got at university.

So it is, it is challenging in that sense.

Do many of your colleagues have PhDs?

The school I'm in now, quite a few do. It must be, I would say there's 80 staff. I would say about 15 of them have. The last school I was at, not many, about three, three people.

And would most have PGCEs?

The school I'm out at, it's quite an old generation still here and hardly any of them have PGCEs.

But the new ones that are coming in, you see more people coming in with PGCEs or doing QTS, which is Qualified Teaching Status. Things are changing. Private schools kind of almost looked for the PhD before the PGCE always. I think that's changing now. I think the onus is, is on you should, you should have at least a PGCE. So I think that has started to change. But, so saying the school I'm in now is just, you know, employed someone who's just done a PhD and they don't mind that he's got no teaching experience at all.


As a PhD student, did you do any teaching or tutoring?

Yeah, I did teaching in my second and third years. I taught first years. Second years. Yeah, first and second years.

And how did you come by that teaching and did you enjoy it?

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. I, I came by it just by my tutor, telling the head of department I should be doing it, especially as I had a PhD. Found it quite daunting at first. 'cause obviously the gap between you and the students is, is much less than you would have at school.

And it was a period that I was completely unfamiliar with. I'd never done it before, so it was quite daunting. It took an awful lot of preparation, but I did really enjoy it.

And did you do that teaching with a view to developing your career as an academic or did you do it 'cause it was helping you financially or what were your motivations?

I think it was both. It's quite good money, but I was also doing it just to develop teaching generally. Not specifically because I was thinking about academia, but just, I've done a bit of teaching. I've done my PGC, well this is something else to put on the CV.

Connections between the PhD and her current role

Do you feel that your work has any direct connection with the subject area of your PhD?

Yes. Obviously because the PhD was, was in History and I'm teaching History. It’s a real shame they've just changed the syllabuses for A level, A level’s the most when I've used my PhD stuff. But, essentially I did my PhD in and the new syllabus have just decided to cut out that entire century, which I'm absolutely devastated about. But more generally the historical skills I learned from the PhD are, are hugely valuable in, in terms of teaching, especially at A level. And in any other ways.

Can you see that there's a continuity between your PhD and your current job?

I was actually very organised and very efficient. I, I think during my PhD and, and worked quite hard on it and I know some of my friends literally didn't and did about an hour a day, whereas I got myself into a very strong work ethic there. And that, that certainly helped 'cause I'm quite organised. I'm the first to churn out reports, et cetera. And now, now at schools, yeah, it has helped in that sense. But I can see how it couldn't, 'cause if you're not very well motivated during a PhD, it's almost a disaster after that.

Some of my friends have done that and not been motivated and then gone into jobs and found it quite a wake up call, I think.

Building a career

Did you at any point during the PhD start to actively pursue kind of career developing activities? Did you present papers at conferences or do voluntary work, or anything else?

I presented papers at conferences, not because I had a desperate desire to, but because it was seen as a thing to do, more than anything. But I didn't particularly enjoy those experiences. At the same time as doing my PhD, I also coached a bit of sport, did some football coaching, got my awards and worked with underprivileged children all, all around the area where my university was.

Where her career is going from here

Where do you see yourself going from this point?

I am quite ambitious, so over the next couple of years I'll be looking to become a Head of Department at another decent school, either boarding or day school. And then, I dunno, part of me desperately wants to keep moving up the career ladder and, you know, look at a Deputy Head at a decent school or then at some point I probably wanna start a family and who knows what happens when that happens.

Any PhD regrets?

Do you have any regrets about doing the PhD?

If you'd asked me in my third year, I probably would've said “Yes”. With hindsight, I'm not sure if I could do it all again. But I think it has benefited me quite a lot. So, no, I don't have regrets.

Any regrets about leaving academia?

Do you have any regrets about leaving academia?

None. None at all. Not even slight. I can't, I think I was actually relieved and I, I decided, you know, I'm, I'm not continuing with these applications and I was quite relieved when I came runner up in the job I did apply for and I'm quite glad I didn't get it.

Was there ever a moment of kind of ambivalence about leaving the PhD in academia behind and moving into a different world?

Not really.

'cause I was quite lucky in that respect because the maternity cover I had at my first school teaching job actually came in the last term of my PhD I think. So there was an overlap when I had both options going at once, which was really useful because as soon as I did that teaching, I, I knew exactly that what I wanted and it, it wasn't academia.


Do you feel that the work that you do reflects the things that motivate you in life?

Yes, I think it does because I want a job where I'm out of an off office where I'm sort of out and about all day, where I face different challenges, where I meet kind of different people where I, you know, get to teach a range of, of children. And that's also challenging, that's got loads of variety about it, which it has. One minute you're on the sports field, the next minute you're in the classroom.

Financially it's quite well paid. I live in, you know, really nice accommodation, beautiful part of London. So everything, all the boxes I would want to tick that makes me happy. I, I think, are certainly ticked.

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