Micah Smith | Teach First

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Micah Smith

  • Studied: Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford
  • Taught: English, London
  • Now: Solicitor, Reed Smith
Micah Smith

I had been interested in a career in law, but I liked Teach First’s sense of mission. I knew the Leadership Development Programme would give me a lot of opportunities without closing any doors, it was socially worthwhile and would give me lots of skills in the process. Teach First adds a string to your bow and there’s always the option to return to teaching later in life.

Teaching suits itself to a career in law very well. In the classroom, you have to explain difficult things to students, and as a lawyer the ability to synthesise ideas is really important. You gain confidence, too – in the classroom, you’re used to having to present information and think on your feet and to communicate with students, other teachers, parents and senior management, sometimes having to deal with people in challenging situations. It gives you experience that is valued. It means that when you start in law, for example, you’ll have more confidence and maturity, which will help in dealing with clients. The law firm I joined after the programme really valued and were interested in my experience at Teach First.

One particularly memorable moment I had was as the lead teacher for our extra-curricular activities for gifted and talented students. We ran a mock trial competition, which meant going to a magistrates’ court and competing against another school. It gave the children confidence and gave them the opportunity to learn about the legal process.

I also helped run the school debating team and ran trips to universities and the theatre. I was involved in setting up a mentoring programme for sixth-formers who were interested in a career in law, arranging for a trainee solicitor to call and help them with their university application.

It’s unusual that you get such huge responsibility, creativity, autonomy and opportunity from day one – that’s not something you get in many graduate jobs. It’s an ambitious, challenging programme and something that’s socially very valuable.

During the programme, I did a Summer Project with LRTT (Limited Resource Teacher Training) in Uganda. It was an exchange with local teachers where we learned from each other. I also had one-to-one coaching from a former management consultant at McKinsey who decided to become an English teacher.

To anyone considering joining the Leadership Development Programme I’d say, talk to as many teachers as possible so you can go in with your eyes open. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it gets easier and it’s very rewarding.