Steve Adcock, 25, teaches at Burlington Danes Academy, in Hammersmith, London.
He has a 2.1 in history from Warwick, and now teaches history and is also a director of learning (like an assistant head position), so teaches half timetable. He was in his third year at university when he received an email about Teach First. Initially it’s a two-year commitment to teach in a tough school. He liked the sound of the challenge and the fact you learn on the job. After six weeks’ training you go straight in the classroom, teaching pretty much full-time. The schools that qualify for Teach First have to be quite needy, with low results, and lots of pupils on free school meals. His current job includes observing other teachers. He also has lots of meetings with parents, and encourages teachers to work together.
What was the training like?
It was good; just enough to start off with. After six weeks we didn’t have the complete set of knowledge, but we knew where the gaps were. The first time in classroom was really nerve-wracking, you are just trying to survive. Then, as the year progresses, you expect to be able to do more than just survive and you feel more confident.
Why did you want to go into teaching?
Teaching is something I’d always half-thought about, but it seemed a bit middle of the road, and I wanted to earn straight after graduation. Teach First made teaching an attractive option. I knew that whether I stayed in teaching or not, I could use the skills, such as communication and leadership, elsewhere.
How do you cope with negative classroom behaviour?
With persistence. There’s no secret really, you just try to get pupils on side. You have to try to find a connection. There’s always a reason for disruptive behaviour, you have to talk to them to find out what that is.
Do you have a problem with the workload?
Yes, for example this week I’ve been setting the alarm clock for very early to do some work before school. Work management is one of the biggest challenges. Previously, I was in same school for three years and over time the workload got more manageable, but I’m in a new school now, so this term has been very hectic, but it will gradually get more manageable with time.
What are the best parts of teaching?
Working with so many different young people is very entertaining. Every day you see such a range of characters; you’ll always laugh and smile at something. I enjoy the challenge too; after a tough day I feel more energised than after an ordinary day. The best times are when you make a breakthrough with a tough class.
What are the worst parts?
You have around 30 pupils in a class, and there is so much energy and so many issues you can’t really control, occasionally you do feel a bit helpless. Sometimes you will have planned a lesson but because one pupil has had a bad night’s sleep or drunk some Coke on the way into school they cause chaos.
What advice would you have to someone considering becoming a teacher?
You shouldn’t do it for altruistic reasons, thinking you can change lives. Maybe you will have an influence but the pupils will never tell you that. If you have an interest in people and sharing ideas you will really enjoy teaching.