Magazine article NATE Classroom

Teaching First: How 'Teach First' Inspired Me to Work in the Area of Special Educational Needs

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Teaching First: How 'Teach First' Inspired Me to Work in the Area of Special Educational Needs

Article excerpt

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It was October in my final year at University when my tutor suggested I start looking at jobs for when I graduate. I was interested in training in Law and had never considered teaching until I was walking through the cloisters and happened upon a careers fair. I was approached by someone on the 'Teach First' stall and invited to attend an open evening about them and the opportunities they were offering. It was there that I heard about the study that Brett Wigdortz had completed at McKinsey about how businesses could work together to improve secondary education in London. As a result of this study which revealed how drastically wealth affected educational achievement and also highlighted the vital role of excellent teachers--Brett founded Teach First with a mission to address educational disadvantage by transforming exceptional graduates into effective, inspirational teachers and leaders in all fields.

I was enthralled by what I heard and applied to Teach First, which recruits graduates to teach in challenging schools across England for a minimum of two years. And challenging it certainly was; I had a baptism of fire into the teaching profession. Three weeks after my final exams at university I took the train to Canterbury for six weeks of intensive teacher training. The six weeks were fun and exciting but the days were also long and exhausting, filled with seminars, workshops, practical exercises and time spent in local schools where we had our first experiences of managing and teaching a class of students albeit excited and rowdy Year 9s at the end of the summer term.

Teach First differs from the PGCE in many ways; the main difference that attracted me was that from the start of September I was an unqualified teacher teaching a slightly reduced timetable but responsible for my own classes, with some students who had to sit their GCSEs in ten months' time. In my first year I found myself teaching in a school which had been placed in 'Special Measures' where the proportion of students with learning difficulties or a statement of special educational needs was above average. My first ever lesson was with a Year 8 class where I quickly understood the importance of differentiation; the group included a student whose literacy was so poor he couldn't write his own name, another student who had a fear of writing and after completing his work would destroy it (this occasionally meant eating it), and also students who were working well at a Level 7.

After two years of teaching in Teach First schools in London I was promoted to Deputy Head of Year. This role taught me about the importance of developing students' literacy so that they are able to access all subject areas, especially as many subjects have complex new vocabularies to learn and use. Each half term in my first year as a trainee teacher we had a training day out of school that focused on teaching pedagogy and developing subject knowledge. Through this training delivered by Teach First I learnt valuable skills in creating dynamic and interesting lessons that were accessible to all, giving each pupil the opportunity to learn and develop skills and knowledge.

After three years of teaching in inner city London I decided to see what life was like in the private sector and I went to work in a social research agency. Working there I was involved in a number of projects but one in particular inspired me to use the skills I had gained through Teach First and return to teaching but to focus on an area that had always interested me--Special Educational Needs. My interest in SEN was firmly established in my first year of teaching: as part of gaining QTS and the Teach First programme I completed an assignment on the difference between the needs of SEN and EAL students and how I met these different needs within my lessons. This led me to evaluate my own teaching practice and through this I gained confidence in working with these students. …

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