The rewarding road to becoming a teacher

Interested in teaching? Look no further. Steve Simkin graduated from the University of Manchester in 2016 after studying Biochemistry with Industrial Experience. Since then, through TeachFirst, Steve has become a fully qualified teacher and has found himself working with, helping and teaching underprivileged kids at a notoriously poor school. Sure, it might not sound too glamorous, but he was making a huge difference to young lives. His excellent work there has presented Steve with a fantastic opportunity. Read all about it, and Steve’s whole teaching journey, below…

Strength of heart and mind

Teaching is one of the most challenging professions out there: you work long hours, for not much money, under a lot of pressure. There is currently no job like it or will there ever be any job like it. The emotional, intellectual and physical demands placed on you are immense but we are young, ambitious and University of Manchester graduates who tackle challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development and for the betterment of our society and immediate communities.

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To teach or not to teach?

Like most of us, I had no clear idea about where I was headed career wise but please don’t let this uncertainty play on your mind or cause you grief! Very few of us have any clear idea about the paths that will lead us into the future or where they will take us.

A question that floated around my head during my final year was: “Do I sell my soul and work for a professional or financial services firm or do I try something different?” Fortunately, TeachFirst offer that something different and truly unique. They offer challenges, both personal and professional, and the opportunity to meet new people and teach in places that you would not immediately think of moving to. I’d always loved the energy required to run my PASS (peer assisted study scheme) sessions with first year students and the dynamism you needed to work with young adults and children. The beauty of TeachFirst is that it is not forever. You complete two years of their Leadership Development Programme (LDP) and then you can continue to work in education or pursue other career avenues. TeachFirst offer bespoke career advice and opportunities such as Summer Projects (with NGOs, commercial businesses or self-arranged). All of which enable you to make your future career decisions from a more informed position.

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However, it is absolutely critical to get as much experience as you can through a variety of both extracurricular and academic activities. The key is to keep your general career and life strategy flexible and emergent as opposed to rigid and inflexible. If you make it your personal mission to develop yourself personally and professionally, you will be successful. Don’t buckle under external peer or social pressures that place more weight on superficial status than substance: who cares if you haven’t managed to secure a place on a graduate scheme at a Fortune 500 company? You can and will carve out your own path in whatever industry or career path you choose. There are more pressing problems in this world than identifying which flavor of yoghurt will be more desirable for consumers.

Here, there and everywhere: Manchester, Vienna, Skegness and a top performing boarding school:  

I currently teach in a very challenging school context: Skegness Academy is in the lowest 10% of performing schools nationally and was recently placed into special measures by OFSTED. However, how did I secure a position as Teacher of Chemistry at one of the UK’s top performing boarding schools after having taught at such a challenging school?

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  1. PASS (peer assisted study scheme) leader within the Faculty. Planning and running sessions with first year undergraduates.
  2. Applying and securing an industrial placement year in Vienna (Austria) working for Boehringer-Ingelheim in their oncology research centre.
  3. Presenting at a Botanical Society event in my first year (attempting to develop my public speaking skills as I was absolutely petrified of public speaking and now I love it!).
  4. Founding the Speak Easy society and running the sessions. Aim of the society was to develop members’ public speaking confidence.
  5. Gaining a place on the TeachFirst LDP and completing the two-year programme under challenging circumstances. Proving that I am resilient, adaptable and committed. These traits will take you further than academic ability or previous academic success.
  6. Self-arranging a summer project with a programme director at the University of Manchester. This was possible through the help of TeachFirst and something that I would not have considered if I had completed a PGCE via a more ‘traditional’ route. During my project, I helped develop learning resources and problem-based activities for first year students. This was a big selling point when I applied to my new school as they are always looking to extend the learning and challenge their students.

To summarise, keep your options open by seeking opportunities and challenges. Act on that idea you might have floating around in your head. It might go somewhere, it might not! You will benefit from acting on it personally and professionally. Finally, one quote to wrap everything up:

 “There is nothing noble in being superior to others, there is only true nobility in being superior to your former self”.

 


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