Teach First trainee Arun Balaraman
Arun Balaraman
Science teacher at Saltley Academy (Birmingham, West Midlands)

Connecting with other career changers helped me grow as a teacher

When Arun joined the Training Programme, not only had he never worked in a school in England before, but he'd never been taught in one. We spoke to him about how he adapted to his new career as a science teacher, and how he built a network of support to help him thrive in the classroom.

Before Teach First, I’d never stepped foot into a school in England.

But I recognise the role education plays in equalising opportunities and breaking barriers for our young children. Growing up in India in the 90s, I was among the privileged few to receive a quality education and have access to the schooling system. This education has empowered me to compete in a globalised society. I have lived and worked in three countries, travelled across the world, and continued to uplift my family's social and economic status.

As a ‘career changer’ from a tech background, I bring years of experience working with people from diverse backgrounds and collaborating with teams spread across the globe. Working at a Teach First partner school provides me with an opportunity to use this experience and directly impact the lives of those I teach.

First day nerves

I was nervous during Summer Institute (the initial training period before entering the classroom). I wanted to be part of the education sector, but my experience of working with children was limited to a few volunteer jobs at a charity.

During the first few weeks, I felt every other trainee had more subject knowledge, knew the school routines and seemed more prepared than me. This is when I discovered the different networks that were available through Teach First.

The confidence-building power of networks

I joined a network of West Midlands trainees and we had many informal chats sharing our experiences. Many of us bonded over our common fears and experiences. I joined a few Teach First groups on Facebook, created a WhatsApp group of science teachers and reached out to people from the previous cohorts.

The networks have been incredibly helpful in sharing tips and tricks to manage workload. It also helped me build a network of friends in a new city.

Networks also help you build a wellbeing routine. I realised that I need to gather resources and build a support system that will help me through the initial training and beyond.

Using my previous career experience in the classroom

I discovered career changers like me, some of them with 20 years of experience in other sectors. I remember having a conversation with a Teach First ambassador who’d completed the Training Programme, and feeling reassured that she could draw on her previous experience to succeed and thrive as a teacher.

At the end of the first year, I do believe that my life experiences added incredible value to my teaching. As career changers, you learn to draw inspiration from your life experiences. As a teaching professional, I need to account for a range of learner abilities and design lessons to suit the needs of every child. I have drawn on experiences from my marketing roles, where product positioning and target audience are critical for success.

Getting the right support

I have definitely felt that my experience has been enriched by connecting with more people, using the resources available and being plugged into the Teach First ecosystem.

Going into the second year of the programme, I am excited about the tonnes of opportunities available to the Teach First ambassadors. Over the summer, I worked with physicists from across the country at the Institute of Physics, a project that I discovered through Teach First.

Having realised the benefits of connections and the power of networks, I am hoping to help many career changers like me by engaging them in the Teach First Career Changers Network, where I currently serve as the Chair.


If you’re a trainee who changed career to teach, you can request to join the Teach First Career Changers Network Facebook group to share your experiences and connect to peers with similar ones. Our networks are a great way to share your skills and knowledge with others to give more children a fighting chance at the best start in life.

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