Failing to acknowledge the odds, is not isolated to business

Failed teacher

As previously mentioned, I used to be a teacher and like a third of all other new teachers, I quit within the first 5 years. The reason I left teaching is pretty simple: the burden of work was increasing, pay and pensions had stagnated and the level of regard for the profession is generally pretty low – where do you think “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” comes from?

However, like in business, the challenges of teaching is massaged by numerous individuals wishing to sell you their best advice. For example, I read about James Pope recently who was head teacher at a secondary school in Gloucestershire. He made headlines when, during the filming of BBC 2 documentary, School, he decided to quit on camera. And instead of finding something more suited his abilities, he thought it best to set up a consultancy business, Inspire Educate.

What I find particularly difficult to accept is Pope lamented the cuts he was expected to make whilst Headteacher: “balancing the books simply became the overriding factor in nearly everything we did”. Yet, Pope clearly feels schools have enough cash to throw at some of his services, which include (according to his website): keynote speeches, coaching and short-term placements – filled by somebody who quit their job.

I’m not saying Pope does not have great advice and experiences to pass on, but at least be honest with people. Tell them the realities of what it is to become a teacher.

“Don’t tell me what you think. Just tell me what’s in your portfolio?” This is the first question which should be levelled at any consultant offering their paid advice. It was originally raised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a mathematician, in his book Skin in the Game. Taleb clarifies this position as being not so much about advisors sharing the benefits of any success, but instead sharing the harm and the penalties when mistakes are made, and money is lost.

Offering advice and coaching after someone has naively started a career in teaching or a yoghurt drinks business (me, in both instances), is far too late. Providing insight and testing the resolve of aspiring teachers or entrepreneurs is imperative in stopping costly and emotional mistakes. This is where I would like consultants across all sectors and organisations to focus advice; though unfortunately, there isn’t much money in such preventative work. If there was, the odds of succeeding would drastically improve.

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