Community Matters

Where we live and work – Teach First

Andy Sharman, P&G UK and Ireland Human Resources Associate Director

Quiz time. What do you think I have in common with Jon Snow (Channel 4 News), Justin King (CEO of Sainsbury’s) and Noddy Holder (lead singer of 1970’s Pop Band ‘Slade’)? No idea? Well, this year I joined this diverse group to participate in Teach First Week 2011, supported by P&G and organised by the independent charity Teach First which is working to break the link between low family income and poor educational attainment. It works to achieve this by placing participants in schools in challenging circumstances and enables them to raise the achievement, aspirations, and access to opportunity of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, whilst developing a network of leaders with a life-long commitment to ending inequality in education from both inside and outside the classroom.

I arrived desperate to deliver the best science class they had ever seen; I really wanted to ‘slam dunk’ it! Well it doesn’t quite work like that. The lesson went very well, I thought. There were some tricky moments (getting 10 year-olds to play the parts of air molecules, feathers and hammers nearly degenerated into a game of rugby), but the experiments worked and they got the learning objectives. Now they know that feathers fall more slowly than hammers because of their surface area, not their weight. A few were still coming up to me after the lesson with some great questions which seemed a good sign.

So, did I ‘slam dunk’ it? I should have known better. When I think back to my own time in school, individual lessons don’t stand out that way (except maybe the one when my chemistry teacher almost blew himself up). The teachers I remember are not the ones who slam-dunked one great lesson but teachers who did it again and again, day after day. Like Amy from Teach First whose class I was looking after. After just six months’ teaching she was handling the class with such professionalism and care I could have sworn she had done it for years. And now, I’m back in my office, but Amy’s still in the classroom, making one little difference after another every day.

My lesson in the classroom wasn’t Key Stage 2 Science; it was Humility 1.01. Watching my fellow Teach First Week participants emerging from their classes, I don’t think I was the only one. Most of us looked tired (make no mistake, this was hard work), but I think I could see the same experience written on their faces too.

I was particularly touched by Sir Trevor Phillips flourishing the notes of the insights he got from his class. That was the other big lesson: teaching isn’t a one way street. It’s a tremendously enriching experience to listen to the questions and ideas you get back. The latent potential you can see in so many of these kids is just thrilling. I just hope Hawk Class learned as much as they taught me.

I grew up in schools facing similar challenges to those that Teach First helps and I know the difference a great teacher can make. The real ‘privilege’ of my education lay in the few teachers who made the connection with me that made me feel valued. They made a big difference in my life, just as I’m sure Amy is making a big difference in the lives of those she teaches.

The lesson really opened my eyes about why P&G is a Platinum sponsor of Teach First and I’m proud to have been involved in any way that I can. This partnership goes to the core of what we’re about and is just one of the ways that we’re working to improve lives and make a difference in the communities where we live and work. And I would encourage any new graduates to get involved and make a difference themselves.

You can find out more about Teach First through Twitter, Facebook or the P&G corporate press office.

Andy Sharman
P&G UK and Ireland Human Resources Associate Director

Teach First’s partners

“I’m delighted Teach First is now expanding into the North East so pupils will be able to benefit from new inspirational teachers who not only have a strong academic record, but have also been tested to make sure they have the right qualities of leadership and empathy.”

Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education

Teach First’s people

  • Teach First already successfully operates in five regions of England
  • It has now accepted 2500 graduates
  • Teach First operates in over 250 schools and has affected the lives of 800,000 young people

Teach First’s goal

  • Recruiting 40 outstanding teachers to be in North East secondary schools from September 2011
  • Working to place 1140 graduates per year by 2013

Images (Click to enlarge)