Teach First ambassador William Lau
William Lau
Head of Computing at The Greenwich Free School
Ambassador cohort
2006 Training Programme

Teach First’s community helped me set up a computing department from scratch

When William wandered into a small careers fair at Warwick University, he came away with a lot more than free stationery.

That chance meeting with a Teach First trainee helped him find his calling as a computing teacher. Fifteen years on, he’s still learning as much from his students as they are from him.

Until the day I walked into the careers fair hoping to bag a free pen, I hadn’t thought about going into teaching at all. I was set on a career in tech consulting with one of the big firms. But the Teach First trainee at the stall sparked something in me, as she told me about the students in her London school.

I still thought I might go into consulting, eventually. But since many of the firms I was looking at were Teach First partners, I figured I could turn to them if teaching wasn’t for me (while gaining a lot more on the way). So I applied.

Having an instant connection with the classroom

Within my first month at St Marylebone School in London, I realised I wanted to teach for the rest of my life. It was a completely different environment to the childhood I’d had in Yorkshire. My students were exposed to some really tough things. No two days were the same, and I realised that being a teacher here meant much more than just sharing my subject – it meant looking out for young people.

It’s amazing how things go full circle. Some years ago, a student came into my IT lesson with bandages around her hands, like she was gearing up for a round in the ring. When I gently asked about it, she shrugged and said: “I was angry. I figured I could either smoke my way through it or smash up my mum’s greenhouse. So that’s what I did.”

A few years later, that same young girl was interviewing one of my A-level students for an Oxford university admissions panel. She was now studying for her PhD there, and mentoring students from schools like her old one. Having come from a similar background, she wanted to help raise their aspirations from a young age. It was amazing to see.

Computing is a great subject for young minds

Being a computing teacher is such a privilege. It’s a subject that’s progressing so fast, and my students are always eager to embrace the latest possibilities. They’re hungry to take the tools I’ve given them and create something incredible —a VR App that nobody’s thought of, or building something really smart in Android Studio. I just set them on a path and they run ahead, full speed.

With computing you can give students freedom to explore their ideas, without the time constraints of exam papers. The young mind knows no bounds. They go home and spend hours developing concepts into something mind-blowing. It’s what keeps the job interesting.

Finding opportunities you don’t expect

I’m so thankful for that fateful day at the careers fair. From the moment I started my training with Teach First, I was surrounded by like-minded people. And through the wider community, I’ve had opportunities that don’t normally come your way. In 2009 I went on a task force trip to explore the Free School movement in Sweden. It wasn’t yet established here, and that’s the thing about Teach First – they help you stay a step ahead.  

That experience paved the way for me to set up a new computing department at The Greenwich Free School. I met the founder – a 2005 ambassador – on the Task Force visit to Sweden. She’d been impressed with my design skills and I ended up producing the school’s prospectus! A year later they were recruiting their first head of computing, and I got the job.

The Teach First community has also been great for opening opportunities to my students. Ambassadors are doing interesting things all over the place. Through them, I can help students find placements everywhere from major gaming companies to investment banks.

These are careers my students often say are ‘not for people like me’. I want them to know that’s just not true.

 

Like William, if you've completed any of our programmes, that makes you a Teach First ambassador. You are now part of a community changing education for the better. Our community consists of teachers, leaders, policymakers and beyond, bringing their expertise to help unlock the potential in all children. No matter where you've chosen to go after your time with Teach First, as an ambassador, you're a critical part of the solution to ending educational inequality.

Find out more about how you can stay connected and continue to make an impact, below:

Being an ambassador

Join a network

If you're interested in developing your career with us, explore our leadership programmes:

Join a leadership programme

Find out how you can step into the classroom as a computing teacher with support from Teach First and Amazon:

Teach computing

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