Follow your calling

For some the decision to teach can come as a surprise. Find out what made Afia Chaudry join our Training Programme.

Alfia Choudry seemed set for a career in media, but he found that his true calling lay in teaching. Here he explains his motivations for joining Teach First's Training Programme.

"You could say the main job of a teacher is to have answers, so the irony isn’t lost on me when people ask why I picked teaching as a career and I don’t seem to have an answer.

But if I was to limit the two main reasons behind my decision to teach, they’d have to come down to fear and gratitude.

To give a little background, I come from a working-class family and lived in the East End of London since the day I was born. My entire education was spent in ‘urban’ schools, and this shaped my view of education and subsequently impacted my career decisions.

It was always difficult to get myself heard on issues that really mattered to me, and perhaps this was my fault.

Even today I find myself questioning the way I went about things; perhaps I should have been quieter, worked harder, communicated better. Perhaps then I would have been able to express my grievances, get the help I needed and been able to excel.

I never want any other child to feel this way. I never want a pupil to continually second guess their abilities, their personality, or their intellect.

This is where the fear kicks in. The fear that through no fault of their own thousands of children will be left behind, and communities of people will be left trapped in a vicious cycle of poor social mobility.

And then there’s the gratitude I feel towards my college teachers, for doing everything that others didn’t. For knowing how a student works, for knowing what my strengths and weaknesses were, for both the pastoral and academic support – and above all, for believing in my abilities and my shot at ‘success’.

I believe the biggest challenge is the opinions of others. Their opinion on changing careers, and of teaching.

I used to be interested in media and journalism and I felt that it was the right path for me, so I tried it. I hashed out articles regularly, I tried to stay abreast on current affairs, I presented on live television – you name it, I did it.

But I never had the sense of accomplishment that I wanted, and I truly felt like I was letting my younger self down. I wasn’t staying true to the dreams and passions of my former self, and somehow that didn’t sit quite well with me.

So, I upped and changed. I decided that I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I had a passion for education, and felt strongly about social mobility – so I secured a place on a Master’s programme at King’s where I could learn more about Education Policy, and applied to Teach First, who would help me put theory into practice.

The number of people who tried to convince me not to explore potential avenues and pursue what I wanted, really just shows the fear associated with change. And all of these arguments had the same root rationale; changing career path is risky. What if you lose out? What if they don’t pay well? What if it’s not what you thought it would be?

Truth is, there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you research the position you’re applying for and are confident in its value, you’ll do just fine. Chances are you’ll do better once you’ve found your ‘calling’ in life, and that’s why identifying and pursuing your interests is pivotal.

And what I’m looking forward to most about teaching, is probably the pupils. Coming from working in media to a career where I quite literally will impact the life of every person in my classroom is more than enough of an incentive for me.

But I’m not choosing to teach for any thanks, I am choosing to teach because it is my way of giving back to society, my way of helping those who need it most, and my way of inspiring the next generation. If at the end of the week I’ve helped to ameliorate even marginally the challenges a pupil faces, then I’m in the right place.

So as far as challenges go, I believe the biggest will remain the opinions of others. Their opinion on changing careers, of teaching, of traditional routes as opposed to Teach First’s Training Programme, and so on. Changing career paths is not a bad thing, it is not a weak move, and it is not senseless by any stretch of the imagination.

It’s my firm belief that going for what you want and striving to excel in a field that you are interested in is a most commendable act, showcasing a strength of character and determination. A career that is in line with your principles and values is far better than a career that will guarantee a hefty pay-check upon starting.

And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. I wake up every day psyched about my future and the future of the children I’ll be working with."

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