Teach First: a rollercoaster ride, but one that's open to all

4th September 2009 at 01:00

As a recent graduate of Teach First, I was intrigued by Oenone Crossley-Holland's book, Hands Up! A Year in the Life of an Inner City School Teacher.

The tales recounted had a familiar feel and brought back my own memories of starting out on the Teach First programme. All of us who have taught in challenging schools could speak of similar stories about disruptive behaviour, despairing parents and a demoralising poverty of ambition that pervades too many inner-city communities. In this sense, Hands Up! gives a very honest account of the emotional rollercoaster that teaching in the inner city provides.

Those who have spent time in challenging schools could also tell of courageous, caring and talented colleagues who are making a real difference to the lives of young people.

The privilege of being involved in Teach First is being invited to work in schools alongside great teachers, to learn from them and become part of the school community. A further privilege is the chance to train alongside other Teach First participants, who are all sharing the same varied, exciting and powerful experiences.

Many of Oenone's reflections are presented through conversations with her friends and peers at the end of particularly challenging days. Sometimes these conversations did little to lift her spirits. Yet in my experience one of the greatest aspects of being part of Teach First is the support of being surrounded by an engaged and determined peer group, sharing experiences in a manner that could help us all to remember, even after a terrible day.

It would be churlish to pretend that teaching in a challenging school is the job for everyone. But it would be a tragedy if the experiences described in Oenone's book were mistaken for reasons not to try. On the contrary, it reminded me why I did, and why I think more people should.

Guy Rimmer, Teach First ambassador, London.

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