TeachFirst Insight Programme

You may have seen a company called TeachFirst around Imperial during the year. They are a charity that helps schools combat educational inequality due to different backgrounds, (i.e. children from homes with lesser financial background). So why am I talking about them?

For students, they offer 2 programs, an insight program and a graduate scheme. Last April, I got into their insight scheme which consisted of 2 weeks:

  • One week training
  • One week placement in a school

This was, without doubt, one of the greatest experiences of my life. I understand that many at Imperial/elsewhere look down upon teaching, but hear me out.  To get past the interviews, you have to be able to speak. Not just normal speaking, but speaking passionately and enthusiastically. This mainly revolves around competency questions, and I still utilize some of the answers to this day. And why is this important?

Chances are unless you are applying for a purely technical job (e.g. engineering @ Google, software development) you will have to undergo competency questions during some part of the application process. This is especially true for the banking industry (I went to Deutsche Bank last summer as an intern), and any other non-technical company. (Think consulting, consumer industries)

As for the internship itself, you do get some money (500 pounds, accommodation paid). The first week is tough – pretty much the whole day is spent building your communication skills (you rotate teams every day and work with them to do certain activities) and it’s pretty much a prep for an assessment centre.

The next week is even tougher – standing in front of 40 kids in a classroom staring at you makes you rethink what the word pressure means. I was placed in Bemrose School, Derby. And it’s not only the teaching that is hard, so is the environment. In the school, most of the kids weren’t well off, and many hadn’t seen a Chinese person before – I had people call me Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee and stretch their eyes. I’d say it’s partially racially abusive, but remember, these are kids.

Afterwards, if they think you’re good enough, they will offer you a graduate job. Which I got. However, there were 2 things that made me reject the offer:

  • They didn’t sponsor. For international students, we require sponsorship to stay in the UK. So, since they didn’t sponsor I couldn’t work for them.
  • It’s tough. Teaching is one of the hardest professions in the world. So next time before you complain about your professor, think about putting yourself in their shoes for a second.

I still look back with fondness on the experience, even to this day. If you have an easter free, and you hope to do something meaningful to your own development, I’d definitely recommend this experience. Just beware, it’s tough. I’ve met some of the best presenters and friendliest people during my time there. If this hasn’t convinced you, you also get a free hoodie at the end. What’s there not to like?


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