David Akata talks about the inspiring leadership our teachers provide every day. And nothing shows that impact more than his own personal story.
David first encountered Teach First as a teenager at an inner-city school in London, which he says opened his eyes and raised his aspirations. Now he’s a maths teacher on our Leadership Development Programme – giving that same fair chance to the next generation of disadvantaged young people.
“I grew up in Hackney and went to school in Haringey," says David. "Even before I went to uni I knew about Teach First. My English teacher was a Teach Firster and I had a mentor through Futures – a Teach First mentoring programme - in sixth-form. It opened the doors to the kind of universities I could apply for. Of course, I’d heard of Oxford and Cambridge but I wasn’t really aware of the Russell Group universities. I ended up going to one, so my encounter with Teach First really influenced me. It also encouraged me to leave London and experience proper uni life away from home.
“Teaching is not a job where you teach and then go home. There’s a lot more to it. You have to be there for the needs of the kids, to motivate them to do their work. It’s not just about teaching maths - you’re teaching them about the world, preparing them for life. You’re a role model. At the school I went to, a lot of the kids didn’t have a father around – neither did I, actually – so you’re someone to look up to. The kids see someone like me, from a low-income family, no father figure. I can show them you can achieve what you want.
“One of my Year 8s came up to me on International Men’s Day. He said he likes my maths lessons and we talked about him suffering from low self-esteem. We had a one-to-one and I told him – like I tell all my pupils – not to be afraid to make mistakes. He listened to it and I think it helped him. Sometimes it’s the little things – just a five-minute chat.
“What I say in the film, ‘You must love what you do’, is true, because you have to want to go in each and every day and make a big impact on children’s lives. The fact is, we need more role models, especially from black ethnic backgrounds. There are not many black role models in the classroom to show the students that we can go to uni, that we can do more, that it can be done.
“When Teach First phoned me and asked if I wanted to be in the film I thought it would be a small thing but, on the day, I walked in, saw all the cameras and lights and quickly realised it wasn’t! It was a great experience. I feel like I’ve got to carry the torch for Teach First now. A lot of my friends were really happy for me when I showed them the film on Facebook. Having people say, ‘Well done’ showed me I’m in the right profession. I could be working in a bank making lots of money for myself but I’m doing something meaningful. It makes me feel good.”
Discover more about Teach First's Leadership Development Programme here.