After earning her degree in Psychology, Lily was looking for an opportunity. Her neighbour, a former Teach First trainee, encouraged her to apply for the Leadership Development Programme. Lily is now a primary school teacher in Bristol. With the help and guidance of her Teach First mentor, she has quickly adapted to the classroom and has fallen in love with teaching. Here’s her story…
“It all happened very quickly really. My neighbour trained with Teach First previously and they offer a renowned programme for graduates, so I thought I would try it. I was also considering law as a profession, but I applied online and heard back within the same week. Then I had my interview and was accepted into the programme from there.
I guess the biggest challenge for me starting out at the school is that many of the children arrive so far behind their wealthier peers. I think that at the age of three, some pupils know roughly two thousand fewer words than those who come from a more advantaged background. You’re always trying to make extra progress with them to help close that educational gap.
The great thing for me is that I’m not alone here. There’s a Teach First ambassador within the school and another Teach First participant within my training cohort. The school where I work has an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ rating, so that’s been a big bonus to see outstanding teaching from the word ‘go’.
It can be daunting at times because it’s a high achieving school, so the expectations are high for us and the children. In that sense, there’s a bit of pressure. However, I can see what makes progress and the level of high-quality teaching required to get the children to where they need to be. There’s a huge variety in the teachers that are in the school - no one teacher is the same - so it’s been great to see a range of outstanding teachers over the year.
I’ve received a lot of support from my mentor too; we’re similar and get on very well. She trained through a university route into teaching and has been doing it for about six years now. I always feel like I’m able to ask for help and she’s there if anything goes wrong.
I’ve received a lot of support from my mentor too; we’re similar and get on very well… I always feel like I’m able to ask for help and she’s there if anything goes wrong.
The support I’ve received throughout the process has been amazing. Even though it’s been a very challenging year, at each step it’s always been made to feel that it’s doable. I’ve learned so much about myself and the educational system and how I can play my part. I’m so surprised that I’m already at the end of my year because it’s gone so quickly.
The support I’ve received throughout the process has been amazing. Even though it’s been a very challenging year, at each step it’s always been made to feel that it’s doable.
The biggest thing I found with teaching is that you need to be organised with your time - and make sure you’re also planning some time to relax! I would also say that you need to listen and learn from everything around you. Any feedback you get is invaluable and you have to take it on the chin and learn from it. Your first year will be the biggest learning curve you’ll go through, especially in that first term. Any advice you receive, you need to implement to continually improve.
The best advice I can give is to try and see as many different teachers as you can in your time at school because everyone does things differently. I think you will find aspects you like in many different teachers; adding those altogether might help you to develop your own style. Take the time to observe others and be observed as much as possible. Even though it’s nerve-wracking, you’ll learn so much more from others.
Take the time to observe others and be observed as much as possible. Even though it’s nerve-wracking, you’ll learn so much more from others.
I think everyone’s experience with Teach First is going to be varied because we’re all in unique school environments with different mentors. With all the graduate schemes it’s easy to hear and read the negatives, but overall I’ve had a very positive experience and I’ve felt hugely supported this year.”