After joining Teach First, I’m glad I never went to work in the city
‘I haven’t experienced any of the horror stories you hear about’
For the majority of us, the idea of stepping back into school after university is pretty alien. It’s usually a given that we’ll go straight from uni to becoming another aspiring grad scrambling to secure a high flying job in the city.
Jack was no exception to the rule. Two years into his degree at Manchester, he was on track for a spot on a Big Four graduate scheme. But having gone through a lengthy application process, he soon realised that he’d not see any real impact in his job. He then got off the cycle of corporate grad schemes and looked towards his original dream of becoming a teacher.
We spoke to Jack about his time on the Teach First Leadership Development Programme, and why there’s more of a need for graduates working in education than ever.
Jack, Manchester graduate, Maths teacher
Before coming into teaching, I was planning on a very different career path. I’d studied Economics and Politics at uni and applied for a graduate programme at a large company. However, after six months of interviews and talking myself into thinking I wanted to work in Corporate Tax, I had a change of heart. I don’t think that time was wasted, as I came out knowing that it wasn’t right for me at that point in my life.
I wanted something where I’d be able to see a real impact, rather than looking at bank balances every day. Teaching was always something that I could see myself in – I went to a little comprehensive school in Chorley and really looked up to my teachers, including my deputy head, who literally got me through A Levels and inspired me to become head boy. The support I received in school provided me with a lot of guidance and I always wanted to pay it forward.
I found Teach First and their internship programme during my second year of uni. During that time, I put the work in and did well in the assessments, and they offered me a position on the graduate course there and then. Joining their Leadership Development Programme when I graduated meant that I could spend a couple of years making a difference, with the choice to continue if I wanted, so it seemed like a no brainer to me.
After graduating I went straight to the Summer Institute, which is a residential training programme that prepares you to start in September as a full-time teacher. It got real very quickly – in just over the space of a week we had to teach full classrooms that we’d never met. Despite that, I formed really strong relationships with the other Teach First grads in the North West during our training, so I never felt like I was without a paddle.
When I started in September, I was in a constant state of adrenaline. Teach First place a huge emphasis on wellbeing – there’s no question that this job has the potential to impact your mental health, so you have people on call that you can ring anytime and constant support.
If you’d told me I’d be a maths teacher as a teenager I definitely wouldn’t have believed you, but when I started here, Teach First thought that my strengths in that subject would go to good use, especially with my economics degree. It’s a really satisfying subject to teach as it’s so important for the students to grasp before their A Levels. It feels like you’re part of something necessary.
The school that I’m working at has been a Teach First partner for years as it used to be a challenging school, situated in a very deprived area of Bolton. The school now has systems in place that have really helped manage the behaviour of the kids in a way that’s not restrictive. There’s a lot of collaborative learning and group work, and it works amazingly. I’ve never experienced any of the horror stories you hear about.
In this job, you have to attain a level of mutual respect from your students, but you’re also a support system for them. A lot of kids will confide in you as someone they trust because they don’t have any sort of consistency at home, and it’s your legal duty to be constantly watching out for warning signs that their home life might be dangerous. There are a lot of students here that don’t have mums and dads, and if you’re able to hear them out, flag their problems and bring out the potential in them this early on it can make a huge difference.
For example, I teach someone with autism, who lives with a foster family, and he’s been a highlight of my time here so far. He always wants to talk about his interests and he’ll come to me and ask for extra work. Being able to see him fulfilled, when there’s obviously been a lot of unhappiness in his life, is what makes it all worth it.
The workload, however, is something you can’t underestimate. You will find there are times that you have to prioritise the job over a lot of things. I used to run big music events in Manchester, which of course had to take a backseat. As much as I miss that, most of the kids I teach don’t have any idea of a life outside the place they live – so I enjoy being able to talk to them about music, or the arts, as it can give them a whole new perspective on the world. I set up a drama club with one of the other teachers, and you can see the rise in confidence from the students as a result.
Also, the benefits you get with the scheme are huge. I’ll leave with a teaching qualification that’ll mean I’m always in demand, and there’s a lot of potential to go into something completely different after. Most of their sponsors, including Deloitte, KPMG, and Goldman Sachs recognise that if you’ve gone through the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, you’ll inevitably make a great employee. There are also a number of Teach First alumni who have set up schools, charities in London, and loads of different organisations that are benefitting young people.
I would urge anyone looking for something outside of punching numbers to go down this route. For a child going through school, their experience now will be a lot different to ours, with huge amounts of pressure due to the way the exams are structured these days. It means there’s more of a need for dedicated teachers than ever.
Of course, I’ve dreamt about times when I don’t have to get up early every day, but the biggest motivator for me is not letting the kids down. If your focus is solely money, it’s not for you. But if you want to know you’ll have a lasting impact on people’s lives, and witness it, it’s worth a shot.