Sonti Ramirez
Sonti Ramirez
History teacher at Greig City Academy (Haringey, London)
Programme cohort
2020 Training Programme

Seeking help for my wellbeing made me a better teacher

Sonti experienced a number of personal challenges while training to teach. She explains how her support networks helped her survive and thrive.

Content warning: this story discusses mental illness and homelessness.


My first year on the Teach First Training Programme has been exceptional. I found myself dealing with very difficult personal challenges at home.

I hope those considering or about to start teaching can find comfort in my story and know that challenges can be overcome with the right help and support network.

Dealing with stress at home, as a trainee

During the Training Programme, we’re taught about the different stages of flight or fight, threat and drive, and how the brain responds to stress.

I felt like for a lot of my training and early on, I was in survival mode. I realised that I didn’t have a very good support network at the time, and I experienced anxiety about whether I was good enough.

I started to develop open and honest professional relationships with my school and Teach First support team. That process of seeking help and building support networks over the first year helped me to face those initial challenges.

Seeking help while going through homelessness

My situation got to a point where I had to leave my house and was homeless for a couple of months. Being able to share that situation with my school colleagues, university tutor and Teach First Development Lead marked a key turning point for me, and they were really understanding and thankful that I was being open with them.

This shared understanding of the challenges I was facing enabled my school and Teach First to offer me the support I needed; I was encouraged to apply for assignment extensions and often catch ups were not just about what I had achieved in class, but where I was at with my situation, and how I was feeling.

Tapping into the wellbeing resources at Teach First

Seeking out professional counselling also helped me develop coping mechanisms; I began documenting my habits, moods, and responses in a journal after learning how to create one from my Development Lead.

I regularly tap into the online Teach First Wellbeing Course, where I learned breathing techniques to destress, and other wellbeing mechanisms. The Wellbeing Course is offered to all trainees on the Teach First Training Programme so we can help manage our own wellbeing.

Teach First encourage the development of strong relationships and networks from the beginning of the Training Programme.

I hope those considering or about to start teaching can find comfort in my story and know that challenges can be overcome with the right help and support network.

By becoming really open about my emotions and experiences with those in my support network, I learned that it’s okay not to have things figured out, and that I can take time off without feeling guilty when things get too tough.

Cultivating those positive professional relationships in the classroom and in school has evolved organically and is something I really enjoy and highly value. I’ve learnt how valuable it is to develop a good line of communication with your headteacher. Once you get rid of the initial fear, it’s a good idea to keep them in the loop on your progress so they can help you manage and look out for your own wellbeing.

The same goes for your Development Lead and tutors. The more open and vulnerable you are about your emotions and feelings, the more they will be able to offer you advice and support if you’re struggling.

Most schools will have a counsellor, from who you may be able access funded therapy programmes and other services.

Getting support from the Employee Assistance Programme

Teach First also offer a free and confidential service called the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is managed by a third-party specialist provider. The 24-hour helpline provides support with stress and anxiety, counselling, family issues, bereavement, financial wellbeing, and much more.

Taking advantage of the wellbeing and cognitive therapy options at Teach First such as the EAP is incredibly beneficial, particularly for developing staying power in the classroom.

Seeking help, being open with my school and Teach First about the support I needed and developing a strong network early on has been what’s helped me survive and thrive on the Training Programme.

If you're a trainee on our Training Programme, visit MyTeachFirst to find out how you can access the Employee Assistance Programme.

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