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to ask how to find a job after 17 years as SAHM?

(78 Posts)
ThreeRandomWords Thu 14-Mar-19 19:28:16

Really want to find a job to have my own income and for my own sanity. But I feel I have lost my confidence after so much time out of the workplace and I am battling feelings of defeatism.

I can't go back to my old job as that was in IT and my skills are obsolete now. I have thought about training as a teacher maybe, which is something I have always fancied. I worry that I am too old (48) and too long out of the workplace to be of interest to anyone.

Any advice? Or inspiring stories of people in a similar position?


Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 19:29:29

I would start small and build your way up. Something like a dinner lady in a local school to get a bit of confidence and work experience under your belt and then take it from there x

mbosnz Thu 14-Mar-19 19:30:47

Um, what was your job in IT? Because your languages might be obsolete, but your training?

fitbciz1 Thu 14-Mar-19 19:35:47

I did an MSc and went back to software development after a 15 year gap. I was 46 when I got my lovely new job, nobody cared about my age. You’re never too old smile

ThreeRandomWords Thu 14-Mar-19 19:35:55

I was a Cobol programmer.

ThreeRandomWords Thu 14-Mar-19 19:37:24

What was your MSc in, if you don't mind me asking?

To be honest, I never loved my job, but I was well paid.

jellymaker Thu 14-Mar-19 19:37:39

You have one life . Don't waste it thinking you can't do something. Sorry to sound dramatic but my friend died last year unexpectedly. It really made me reevaluate what I believe about myself. If you want to do it, do it. You have tonnes of skills from running a household that are transferable to loads of places. Being a mum requires hard work and resilience. We all know it's the toughest job in the world. You won't find another job that is tougher. Go for it

fitbciz1 Thu 14-Mar-19 19:43:52

It was a computer science one and I loved it. Didn’t like my job before my break (rubbish company), completely love my one now.

Ariela Thu 14-Mar-19 19:45:29

Heaps of articles about over 50s going into teaching.

Justanotherlurker Thu 14-Mar-19 19:48:12

Cobol is still sought after in legacy system programming, depending on where you are in the country you could just do a bit of refresh and get some interviews easily.

RoseGoldJuliet Thu 14-Mar-19 19:50:05

One of my friends trained as a teacher when she was 47, and was HOD when she retired! She was brilliant.

jennymalone Thu 14-Mar-19 19:50:09

a dinner lady in a local school to get a bit of confidence and work experience

I think this is terrible advice for someone who's worked in a professional career job with a computer science background.. might be ok for someone wanting to get any work experience having never had a job, but not great for the OP.

Op, look at some of the "return to STEM" jobs/support groups, there's many available at big employers and professional associations due to the STEM skills gap. Some offer more support than others, it depends where you are/what you could commit to.

dizzycatdance2 Thu 14-Mar-19 19:51:51

I went back into it after 16 year gap. I wrote ,not emailed, local companies I thought might suit, offered to work for a couple of days a week to "try me out" (asks give me a chance to see if I could still do it) .
I wrote to 13, got relies from 3 and have been with one of those since 2015.
Worth a shot if you aren't currently working so not "losing" a wage.

mbosnz Thu 14-Mar-19 19:56:05

Okay, talking to DH who is reasonably high up in IT, COBOL being one of those vanishing languages, can be highly paid if you can find the work in it. But can be hard to retrain in the modern languages.

But if you didn't enjoy it, where is your passion? You're clearly intelligent and capable. I'm 47. It's really easy to think we're further over the hill than we actually are, I reckon.

Justanotherlurker Thu 14-Mar-19 20:09:31

Okay, talking to DH who is reasonably high up in IT, COBOL being one of those vanishing languages, can be highly paid if you can find the work in it

If you have expertise in a legacy language you will not really need to touch modern languages, its sought after and any work history however far back and can pass a tech test will be in demand.

Don't need anyone's DH as there are plenty of us on here working high up in IT (sorry but the 'I asked my DH' kind of annoys me)

GeorgeTheBleeder Thu 14-Mar-19 20:20:57

A brand, shiny new qualification would be a good place to start. Studying something you're interested in amongst a probably diverse group of people is both exciting and challenging. And combined with maturity you're likely to sweep through exams and graduate with impressive new skills.

Anything you'd like to try?

Jimjamjong Thu 14-Mar-19 20:21:28

I have just been to a meeting where they are recruting Cobol programmers and providing the training. It's not obsolete, apparently it is very much used by banks, transport companies, etc... but it's not that easy to find people trained in Cobol. I am on the other side of the channel but worth having a look around. You could also retrain in Java with a 3 months training course.

GeorgeTheBleeder Thu 14-Mar-19 20:41:56

I have to say, I too find it worrying that anyone might suggest a previously highly paid and skilled professional could only aspire to (forgive me) very low status work after being a SAHM. How on earth would women ever progress in the workplace, and have any power in the world, if that were the case?

I probably haven't put this well. Of course minimum wage, unskilled jobs are worthwhile. But they are not automatically the correct realm for every mother. Nor for anyone who might have had a break from work for any number of reasons.

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 21:00:13

GeorgeTheBleeder I work in a school. Almost everyone of our dinner ladies have previously held good careers and are finding their feet getting back into the workplace. They tend to only stay for around 6 months after it has given them a confidence boost and the realisation that they can return to work and that it’s not as hard as they built it up to be in their heads. When they leave a lot go into teacher training, but I have known others go back into their former careers after leaving, so maybe get off your high horse? 😂

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 21:01:24

Oh and btw we have male ‘dinner ladies’ too before she start on your feminist crusade again

Justanotherlurker Thu 14-Mar-19 21:04:51

I have to say, I too find it worrying that anyone might suggest a previously highly paid and skilled professional could only aspire to (forgive me) very low status work after being a SAHM. How on earth would women ever progress in the workplace, and have any power in the world, if that were the case?

Whilst I agree with your overall statement, a developer with apparent COBOL experience (the time out is becoming somewhat irrelevant in legacy systems) wouldn't be posting a thread on how to find work.

Its a confidence issue, if she has the knowledge she will be in demand and highly paid, re training now is a cost negative that if you include having to learn new languages so you can teach will be more cost effective of being a highly paid dev on legacy systems and learn on the job.

Lwmommy Thu 14-Mar-19 21:05:29

Looks like Cobol dictates a pretty good salary and benefits"acc"%3A118%2C"c"%3A903991677%2C"a"%3A45749604860%2C"k"%3A299346943570%2C"d"%3A"t"%2C"targetid"%3A"kwd-299346943570"%2C"cr"%3A"213359028362"%2C"ap"%3A"1t2"%2C"n"%3A"g"%7D/ppc_landing_type.2/origin.11/device.t?gclid=CjwKCAjw96fkBRA2EiwAKZjFTW1HW-f65b2YNxZmvE4b4njtjBvwwHZS30JmxLRNX01FTekiBhOQwhoCvFwQAvD_BwE

GeorgeTheBleeder Thu 14-Mar-19 21:07:32

Is it me - or is it my new name?

Everyone seems to want to fight me now ... confused

Justanotherlurker Thu 14-Mar-19 21:11:27

Everyone seems to want to fight me now ...

No one is fighting you, its a continuation of discussion as the OP hasn't come back

Mixingitall Thu 14-Mar-19 21:14:17

Apply and see what happens. I was a SAHM for 8 years, applied for a role in the field of IT I worked in before and got a great job on a great salary. IT changes so fast that an understanding of technology and the technical mind to learn are big assets in themselves. Being personable goes a long way too! Good luck, don’t let confidence hold you back.

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 21:14:30

Please also note the OP’s posts saying she doesn’t really want to return to her former field and has always wanted to teach, but is feeling unsure of herself after being out of employment for so long

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 21:18:02

OP you could also volunteer in a school if you’re unsure that it’s what you want to do and are lacking in confidence and then apply for teaching training when you feel more up to it x

TheLette Thu 14-Mar-19 21:33:23

There is a book called "She's Back" and a related Facebook group which would be a good start for advice on how to market yourself and sell the time you've spent away from the workplace. The book covers exactly your situation.

Justanotherlurker Thu 14-Mar-19 21:36:44

Please also note the OP’s posts saying she doesn’t really want to return to her former field and has always wanted to teach

I did miss those, but if she wants to teach then IT would be the obvious choice, so at late 40's take a couple of years to train as a teacher and learn new languages, that could be just as difficult as getting back into a legacy area where she could probably work for the length of time required to retrain earn the cash and not work again.

Wanting a vocation and worrying about returning to work is different scenarios, teachers on MN tell everyone not to bother entering the market because of stress, long hours etc so its a case of utilising existing knowledge for the maximum pay or outlay.

The thread has been framed in a certain way by the OP.

ArmchairTraveller Thu 14-Mar-19 21:40:26

Teach what? Secondary or primary?

ThreeRandomWords Thu 14-Mar-19 21:47:15

Thanks for the responses, you have all given me food for thought.

I thought about teaching at secondary level - potentially maths or French ( have a Maths with French degree). I kind of fell into computer programming in the first place - it was okay, paid well, but generally not that interesting for me. In some ways, it seems the obvious thing to go back to, but I'm not sure it is where I really want to spend my working life. That's if I could get back into that field in any case.

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 21:55:44

I’m sorry but at no point has the OP said she wants to do what pays most.She has said that her previous job paid well, but she didn’t enjoy it. She has been a SAHM for many years, but wants her own money and from the sounds of it to do something new. It does not sound like she is stoney broke and needs to do something she doesn’t like just for the money.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with retraining at that age, to teach IT or whatever else it is that she wants to teach, we don’t know what other skills she has. She may even want to teach primary or in a college.
Lots of people complain about their professions. Many teachers, including me, complain on here sometimes. That’s why I think working in a school for a bit, voluntary or paid, would give her a bit of an insight into what it’s like working in a school (if you have never worked in a school you don’t really know what it’s like and if you will work well with kids). Yes teaching is stressful and long hours if you are looking to build your career and move up the ladder. More stressful if you have young kids at home. However, like with most jobs you can also choose to work part time (as I do). The pay is not as high as in some other careers, but there are also benefits.
I don’t understand why some of you are so determined to try and push her back into her old career when she’s said she’d rather not do it. Being qualified or experienced in something doesn’t mean you have to do it anymore if you don’t want to! (I speak as someone who career changed to teaching despite my previous career being better paid - it’s not always all about the money!)

GeorgeTheBleeder Thu 14-Mar-19 21:56:47

Bear in mind that, if you don't already have a postgrad degree, you will be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan for an MA/ MSc. (Or a PhD.)

Jam82 Thu 14-Mar-19 22:00:00

OP sorry my post crossed with yours.

I’m a Spanish teacher, my second language is French (I provide back up for the French department). I work part time in a high school andprovide cover for the French department. Part time was possible for me because in my part of the country there were language posts going unfilled. I came from a languages back ground (in my previous career and degree). I would try and get some experience maybe volunteering to see if it’s right for you before taking the plunge. There are lots of other jobs you can go into if it’s more using French that you are interested in x

Girlofgold Fri 15-Mar-19 04:42:25

Study short term. Something you're interested in. It will change your perspective, and even if you struggle a bit, it will get your confidence up.

Then decide where to direct yourself.

In the meantime, find out how to get cobalt opportunities. You never know what might come up whilst your exploring other avenues.

FenellaMaxwell Fri 15-Mar-19 04:51:17

Maths is always an in demand subject. Have a look at Teach First.

bmbonanza Fri 15-Mar-19 05:34:56

"I have to say, I too find it worrying that anyone might suggest a previously highly paid and skilled professional could only aspire to (forgive me) very low status work after being a SAHM"

I have to say I find that incredibly patronising. You can get just as much job satisfaction out of being a dinner lady as you can from being a high flyer and you still need to be highly skilled but just in a different way. Clearly this commenter has never worked with children!

Doing time in a school as a volunteer or as a dinner lady is a time-tested route into becoming a TA which might suit the OP. It will also allow her to see what a teacher's working day actually is so she can decide if that is really the career she wants and then go for it!

scarus Fri 15-Mar-19 05:56:01

There are plenty other IT roles where your general IT experience would be valued if you don't want to program.

Software tester - lower paid but probably easiest way to get your foot in the door of somewhere
Business analyst
Project manager

I think as a recruiter I would want to see some recent "work" experience either as a volunteer or evening waitress job or whatever to show you can do the basics of turning up regularly etc.

soulrunner Fri 15-Mar-19 06:16:45

Give the above advice from IT bods re. COBOL being in demand, I'd go back into that as an "on ramp" to the working world and then think about retraining as a teacher after a couple of years. You might see other opportunities at your new company that appeal as well.

I think companies are becoming more open to "non-linear CVs" (mine definitely is- financial services). Plus most are really trying to recruit more women in tech so...

BrightonBB Fri 15-Mar-19 06:23:28

To see what it is like in a school why not try invigilating as an ease back into work. Schools always need more at this time of year.

MsTSwift Fri 15-Mar-19 06:59:24

The dinner lady advice was terrible. How would it “boost your confidence” to work in a minimum wage low skilled job when you are a tertiary educated professional? That would tip me over the edge.

After being out 7 years I did a qualification related to something that interested me in my previous profession and set up my own business doing this so entirely flexible hours. Now higher rate tax payer again.

PeggySuehadababy Fri 15-Mar-19 09:17:16

OP, do a research of the job market in your area and if there are indeed vacancies for Cobol programmers.

If you quickly google it there are not many and are always asked in conjunction with other programming languages. Are you still practical with programming? It seems you are not really passionate about it anyway so why not trying some volunteering in different areas? Even building websites maybe?

I'm not an IT professional but worked as a recruited, and it would be good to have some recent experience on your CV, even volunteering or freelancing.

Regarding the dinner lady advice, it's not easy to step back into work after so many years off, but not impossible. Therefore it's not an insult to suggest that if you struggle to find any other employment you consider it. And I know plenty of SAHMs whi went back to jobs that were way below their education level and slowly worked their way up.

I has nothing to do with glass ceiling but with the time spent off work.

jennymalone Fri 15-Mar-19 09:51:28

If someone posted that their house husband if 17 years , an ex programmer IT professional, wanted to get back into work.... Do you think anyone (posters, recruiters, senior educators) would be telling him to go and be a dinner lady for a couple of years?

I absolutely doubt it.
It's ingrained sexism - little SAHW wants to get back into work, so unskilled, minimum wage job will tide her over nicely and boost get chances. [Hmm]

Jam82 Fri 15-Mar-19 09:54:51

I really don’t understand why some of you have a problem with me suggesting that the OP does some lower level paid work in a school, or voluntary work to see if she actually enjoys working in a school environment before starting teacher training. She has said she would like to be a teacher It is not something that is everyone’s cup of tea and I think some experience working in a school would give her a bit more of an insight before taking the plunge into the profession.
If anything I find your snobby attitudes of someone taking a job ‘below their station’ after 17 years out of the job market highly offensive and frankly quite ridiculous. I’m not suggesting she goes into a job as a dinner lady until retirement FFS!!
Try actually reading the OP’s posts about what SHE wants to do and what HER goals are hmm

Jam82 Fri 15-Mar-19 09:57:56

Btw I said for about 6 months. If he said he had always wanted to woek as a teacher, but was feeling a bit unsure then YES i would recommend he work in a school first to see if it’s actually the right career path for him. You are unlikely to get paid work in a school without the relevant qualifications, even as a classroom assistant, hence the suggestion. Do any of you actually have experience inthe education field????

TheFallenMadonna Fri 15-Mar-19 10:01:47

Maths with French? That would be a great combination for most schools. Do you have any secondary school contacts? Your DC's school? Go in and look around, and apply for a PGCE place. You would get a bursary for training.

prince55bananahammock Fri 15-Mar-19 10:14:12

The Women Returners website is a good resource for women who want to return to work after a career break

Plus they have a conference in May!
Good luck OP!

BishooWishooGone Fri 15-Mar-19 11:53:41

Hi OP have you had a look at the Facebook group "careering into motherhood"?

MsTSwift Fri 15-Mar-19 11:58:55

Our views are not “snobby”. There’s nothing wrong with being a dinner lady but they don’t usually have degrees and computer programming skills. Why should women sell themselves so very short. Sorry but I get so riled that a few years out of the job market means you only fit for menial work and is a death knell to your career because it bloody isn’t. Loads of my friends had years of sahm and now have brilliant jobs. Loads.

MarshaBradyo Fri 15-Mar-19 12:01:38

I’d consider teaching too
It’s an in demand profession and you have a good degree for it

Hollowvictory Fri 15-Mar-19 12:04:44

A dinner lady! What nonsense! 'to get experience' yes of serving dinners. The op is an I T professional!
Op google women returner programmes
Good luck!

bringbacksideburns Fri 15-Mar-19 12:08:18

Fuck me. Here we go again with the sneering snobbery. hmm

Ingrained sexism?! Really?
No a bit of what I'm sure the poster thought of as helpful advice at that moment, for someone who hasn't worked in a very long time BEFORE she revealed more about herself and her qualifications. ( Especially as term time only and part time.)

Why does this one upmanship always happen on here? If it's not class it's education.

Thank God for the reasoned replies on here that don't try to put other woman down who are just as valuable but have gone in a different direction.

Hollowvictory Fri 15-Mar-19 12:27:32

It's sexist crap to say a female returning to work, and in fact considering being a teacher, should consider working 1 hour a day in a nmw job serving dinners. Utter nonsense @bringbacksideburns.
Women, know your worth!

bringbacksideburns Fri 15-Mar-19 12:28:49

Totally missed what I meant haven't You?

TheFallenMadonna Fri 15-Mar-19 12:28:54

More importantly, being a dinner lady in a primary school will give you absolutely no idea about what being a Maths teacher in a secondary school would be like. Any more than being a programmer would in fact. Status/qualifications irrelevant. So if that is what the OP wants to do, that is what the OP should be checking out.

foxstar3 Fri 15-Mar-19 12:33:55

Omg join lloyds bank loads of opportunities at head office

GeorgeTheBleeder Fri 15-Mar-19 12:36:01

This was part of the OP's first post:

I can't go back to my old job as that was in IT and my skills are obsolete now. I have thought about training as a teacher maybe, which is something I have always fancied.

And this was the first response:

I would start small and build your way up. Something like a dinner lady in a local school to get a bit of confidence and work experience under your belt and then take it from there x

Just to refresh the collective memory ...

I have no knowledge of the circumstances of any other poster but my own response came from specific, recent experience. It had nothing to do with snobbery and everything to do with pretty damn clear knowledge of what I might find satisfying.

For someone who was musing on teaching - perhaps volunteering in the IT/Library Dept of a school might have been reasonable. I honestly cannot see why a side step into school catering would be helpful.

Mumof3dragons Fri 15-Mar-19 13:45:41

OP if you're around London PM me. Kind of in the samt boat and have just started volunteering with a charity which tutors small groups in key subjects in struggling schools. I love it. Even if I don't continue into teaching (unsure) it is boosting my confidence in terms of meeting new people and trying new things.

soulrunner Fri 15-Mar-19 13:47:09

You are unlikely to get paid work in a school without the relevant qualifications, even as a classroom assistant, hence the suggestion

Er, maybe they should review their recruitment practices then, given the shortage of maths and French teachers. "Oh hello, highly educated professional? You want to teach maths? Oh sorry, computer says no. You need to have served up chips for 6 months first"

talktoo Fri 15-Mar-19 15:24:37

Jam82 are you serious? A dinner lady? The OP was an educated professional. They have skill sets far more advanced than dinner ladies. Nothing wrong with dinner ladies but it's a ridiculous suggestion.

talktoo Fri 15-Mar-19 15:30:24

GeorgeTheBleeder I'm not fighting with you. I'm completely onside with you. 'Thinking about teaching' ... 'get a job as a dinner lady' WTAF.

Peanutbutterforever Fri 15-Mar-19 16:29:21

Maybe consider a course at the OU? It will give you extra skills/ quals and could boost your confidence hugely.

Heartlake Fri 15-Mar-19 16:34:28

Create yourself a LinkedIn profile and that you're 'looking for opportunities'.

Go to some networking events for people in your field.

Speak to course tutors if you're thinking if retraining.

Then perhaps do a combination of all of the above whilst you find your way again. You can gain confidence, learn and start making your way back to an involved role all at once, whilst fitting round existing

MsTSwift Fri 15-Mar-19 17:04:53

A friend was a bank manager and after 8 years sahm switched to teaching maths at secondary. There’s a shortage so her training was funded and quick. She’s really enjoying it. Think teaching is a good second career the teachers I know who went in young get so jaded

Rockmysocks Fri 15-Mar-19 17:56:39

Brush up your COBOL there seems to be a steady demand for COBOL programmers needed to maintain old systems, often in banking. For younger programmers with newer fast track languages under their belts, COBOL would be a lobster pot but ideal for you to get back into IT and maybe take an evening class in high demand languages.

Good luck to you!

justasking111 Fri 15-Mar-19 17:59:51

I went back to college to retrain my brain. Ask around there are some courses run back to work type things in our area.

monkeysox Fri 15-Mar-19 18:42:41

There's a huge shortage of maths teachers.
If you have a degree already approach some teaching agencies to become a cover supervisor. This will enable you to get valuable class experience if you decide you like it.
You have to have some experience to e accepted to train.
You might not like it.
BTW there are computing teachers now as ict gcse was scrapped

lljkk Fri 15-Mar-19 19:36:26

OP: do you have a university degree already?

[being a dinner lady in a local school to get a bit of confidence and work experience] is terrible advice for someone who's worked in a professional career job with a computer science background.

Ok, that was me, I had specialist tech & computing background but after 8 yrs as SAHM had lost my confidence. Working as MSA (supply) for 6 months was great, just what I needed. One of my co-ladies was arguably more skilled than me, but the hours suited her (she considered the wages derisory, mind). I've been back in 'professional' jobs 6 yrs now.

DS's computing teacher is a bit terrible, if I'm honest. Secondary schools are crying out for math & science teachers. Lucy Kellaway went into teaching in her late 50s. Don't see Y OP couldn't do something similar, choose an area you think you could love. Might not fully retire until 70yo, lots of time still to skill up, learn, & do something interesting & rewarding.

MsTSwift Fri 15-Mar-19 19:43:23

Maybe I am hard faced but I don’t get the “lack of confidence” thing. I and many of my ex sahm peers found motherhood gave us more confidence. We put things in perspective after a full on career then 7 years looking after toddlers going into an office with lots of 20 somethings stressing about nonsense we know it is nonsense. Read Allison Pearson how hard can it be very funny on this.

lljkk Fri 15-Mar-19 19:45:57

ps: lots of charities are desperate to get someone to run their website & social media accounts. It's a foot in door to learn loads of new skills in high demands.

needsahouseboy Fri 15-Mar-19 19:46:53

Do not let your age factor in any hesitancy to apply for a job. I’ve just employed someone that has retired and just wants a less stressful job.

TooMuchSocialMedia Fri 15-Mar-19 20:01:50

OP, Mumsnet sent jobs adverts out this week including free 12-week courses to encourage women into cyber security, funded by DCMS. Data science might be another interesting & well-paid field you could enter quite quickly.

ninjawarriorsocks Fri 15-Mar-19 20:19:49

I have recently gone paid into work after 13 years out. I do think confidence is an issue. I did a few courses just to build up my skills, and went to a careers advisor (I found one specifically aimed at mums returning to work!) who gave me advice on my CV. This all really helped give me some confidence. Now I am back at work I don’t know why I worried, it’s a doddle compared to raising 3 kids!!

ninjawarriorsocks Fri 15-Mar-19 20:22:46

Oh and I did voluntary work in a school too - not as a dinner lady!!! but as classroom assistant. This was really useful as I was able to get a reference from it, this is also something to bear in mind as you’ll need references.

DonnaDarko Fri 15-Mar-19 20:28:09

I would suggest trying to do something you really want to do first. If that doesn't work out, then consider experience in lower skilled areas.

The degrees you have are in demand for teachers, so that is a really good option.

You've shown an aptitude for programming but you don't need to go back into that. You could build a portfolio in other programming languages , which should help you find jobs and will also build your confidence. Pretty much every developer I know has a personal portfolio, not just their work experience.

All the best of luck!

DonnaDarko Fri 15-Mar-19 20:32:41

*ah I meant you don't have to go back into that specific programming language

lljkk Fri 15-Mar-19 20:35:35

Just saw the bit where OP said she got math with French degree: omg, they'd bite your hand off if you wanted to be a math teacher. The math teachers kind of rule the roost at DC school. The school can't afford to be harsh on them, so they get away with little things like not turning up for P-Eve.

Cyberworrier Fri 15-Mar-19 20:42:20

I don’t think a stint as a dinner lady or even a TA would give the OP understanding of what it is like to be a teacher (having been a TA pre training myself- and with no snobbery meant). Being a dinner lady would show if she likes working with children- but not anything about teaching.
It certainly sounds like the OP has the skill set to be a teacher, potentially able to teach Maths or Languages, but I do recommend looking on Staffroom threads and the numerous discussions there.
Sadly there are reasons teachers are in high demand, I’m sure someone will be along saying more soon along these lines..
Good luck OP in your quest for work!

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