As soon as I entered the classroom I realised that being a teacher is tough. It was tougher than I imagined, in terms of the hours you have to put in, in terms of the emotional impact it has, in terms of the psychological impact of working with young people. It's not stressful, it's quite enjoyable, but it does take a lot to continue through the day.
Since I was around 16 I've been doing youth work. I went into teaching because I wanted to learn more about the way children think. I wanted to learn more about how they learn. I wanted to learn more about discipline and the classroom environment.
Despite it being tough, it's very enjoyable. The number of times students say things that are so funny! In addition, you can go home and think, “Yes, it was a good day” – it had meaning, purpose, you've seen kids develop.
I've seen children suddenly become very focused after months and months and months and months of talking to them, developing them, reinforcing, being resilient with them, and they've suddenly changed. They come into a lesson one day and they want to learn and they want to achieve. That for me is the key lightbulb moment, when an attitude changes.
For me, the main purpose in teaching is to plant seeds and to develop wholesome young people. I develop their character and develop their academic achievement, and I think they go hand in hand. By planting this seed, the fruits can be seen many years later. I do want immediate results in the short-term, but the bigger picture is, where are they going to be in 10 years' time? Have I instilled something that's going to make them say, “Yeah, actually I love learning”?
I think Teach First is unique in the way it offers its training. It’s two years, you're straight into the classroom, it gives you a challenge, it gives you purpose. The challenge is quite important because you’re in the classroom, in at the deep end. Teach First stood out for me because it's prestigious, it's a charity, and it pays you.
In addition to all of this, as an ambassador, Teach First are proving to be very helpful. Sometimes when it does get tough in teaching my connection with Teach First keeps me going.
When I first start in a new class I ask students to fill in a letter. In that letter there's a question that says, “The one thing I'd like to do most with my life is…” In my school placement, a young child, only 12 years old in one of the poorest neighbourhoods, wrote that he'd like to achieve success and prove that people from poor neighbourhoods can achieve success and then go on to help other people.
I guess my question to myself and everybody is, what's the one thing you'd like to do most with your life? And that led me to teaching.