Career Q&A with class of 2020’s James Strange
James has had a hugely varied and exciting career, from musician in the Royal Marines, loose-leaf tea entrepreneur to microbiologist and now secondary school teacher. He also somehow managed to start up his own successful business during lockdown. James kindly agreed to answer our career questions.
What course did you study?
PGCE (Secondary Biology) with QTS
Year of graduation
Where are you from originally?
Why University of Cumbria, what attracted you?
Knowing Lancaster campus housed the 'Learning, Education and Development Research Centre', I was keen to learn from staff involved in leading research. The insight, knowledge, and experience from the course tutors was exceptional, providing an unmatched year of personal and professional reflection.
Why did you choose your particular course?
I chose to study a PGCE with QTS at UoC as I was involved extensively with training and mentoring students and staff during a five-year career as a microbiologist with Scottish Water. This inspired me to develop my teaching skills and take a leap of faith in to a new career path. It's safe to say I have learned valuable insight into the education system and even more valuable skills as an educator over the past two years.
What is the most important thing you learnt as a result of your course?
I learnt a lot about who I am, and what kind of teacher I can be with the right knowledge. More importantly, I think I discovered what kind of teacher I want to be, and how to take this forward in my future career development.
Did you have a staff role model or personal hero?
I like to think I model myself on the dry tones of Steven Chubb. He had a remarkably professional attitude, and was a fantastic mediator.
Any memorable or funny stories?
I was commuting home to Edinburgh on a Friday for the weekend, so I always dreaded the four-hour journey ahead of me after a long day studying in Lancaster. I formed a bond with the staff in the coffee shop, always popping in to buy a large black coffee for the start of my journey (often as they were trying to close...) We shared stories of our children, and I'd sometimes be lucky enough to grab a bargain cake to take home for the kids. I would eventually end up travelling 3500 miles up and down the country over the first two months on the course, and, honestly, this small gesture of kindness and warmth made it all bearable.
Can you describe your career journey so far:
I joined the military in 2001 when I was 17, and was trained as a musician and multi-instrumentalist with the Royal Marines Band Service at the RM School of Music in Portsmouth. I performed in some of the world's largest music venues, alongside a number of celebrities, whilst completing a diploma in music at the University of Portsmouth. I was drafted to Scotland in 2005, where I met my wife and pursued my dream of going to university to study biology, tirelessly studying alongside work to gain the qualifications needed for acceptance to the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
Following completion of my honours degree in 2013, my wife and I ran an ethical loose-leaf tea business using a cargo trike retro-fitted to be off-grid, incorporating a bio-fuel burner to produce all of our energy. It was a somewhat crazy yet deeply rewarding year, which helped to shape our understanding of running our own business. The following years were spent developing my mentoring and teaching skills within a microbiology laboratory, which ultimately led to my undertaking of a PGCE (with QTS) at UoC.
Finally, and to bring us up to date, I have since established my own record label and developed an app through which my wife Kirsty and I have created a growing catalogue of therapeutic musical tools and meditations.
Richard Rose Morton Academy
Teacher of Science
What were your career ambitions when you started studying and do you think that you have achieved them?
My career ambitions when I started ITT were to settle in to a school community and teach science until I was too old to hold a measuring cylinder. Although my ambitions have changed somewhat over the last year, I feel I have achieved all my original goals and had a fantastic experience in a very welcoming school as an NQT.
What are your career ambitions, now and in the future?
Over the past 18 months I have established a successful record label, with more than two million streams since September, promoting parents' and children's mental health through music and meditation with my wife Kirsty, who is a hypnotherapist.
The Baby Lounge was originally conceived when we had trouble putting our young ones to rest – a problem we solved with an innovative mix of Kirsty’s hypnotherapeutic skill and my musical training. The Baby Lounge offers hundreds of original, high-quality music-box recordings designed specifically to improve sleep quality and help regulate emotional wellbeing. The lullabies and meditations are also available on a wide range of musical platforms: Insight Timer, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music.
Music is such a great bonding and learning experience to share with your kids. We often hear our kids singing the tunes while they play; it's had a positive impact on their tonality and creativity. Exposing them to music from birth has been fantastic as they now have such a great emotional connection with music. It makes bedtimes more relaxing by helping to regulate their nervous system through the calming, specific sound frequencies we use in the songs.
Our next phase of the business will be to step back in to the real world, and establish an outdoor education centre where I can mix content with context. We are already looking at land to form a centralised hub for activities, with a simple classroom and biodiverse ecosystem to facilitate interaction between children and nature.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
Inspiring kids to actively engage in science, and that feeling when you've succeeded in sparking their curiosity...
What are you most proud of?
Organising my year 7 classes to get out in the school garden and create projects based around the #NoMowMay campaign. It was fairly impromptu, the sun was shining, we were learning plant reproduction, I opened the doors and away we went...
Your advice to current and prospective students considering a career similar to yours?
The PGCE is a wonderful course to study, opening up a world of paths in to education. Whilst teaching in a school is a fulfilling and rewarding career path in itself, there are also many alternative career paths to explore which allow for uncapped ambition.
You can find out more about James and the Baby Lounge here:
Would you like to answer our career questions and be featured in the next alumni newsletter? Fill in the form here.