I have been working as Teach First Germany fellow in Berlin since 2018. Before this experience, once my Ph.D in political Science was completed, I worked as freelancer for German media.
Teach First “Fellows” are usually sent to disadvantaged schools, the ones we normally call (in German) “problem schools”, usually in the outskirts and far away from shining city centers.
Many fellows report that during their 2-year engagement they encounter levels of social inequality they had never imagined before. That’s even true for one of the wealthiest industrial countries in the world, such as Germany.
I had always been keenly aware of the social inequality present in German society, and I can witness it daily in my own school, where almost fifty percent of students drop out before graduating. And my background has also led me to the mission of Teach First Germany: I was a failing student, was expelled a number of times, and even had problems with the law too early in my life, losing sight of my own future.
Coming from such a background, I had a different drive to become a fellow for Teach First Germany. I had no interest to apply to a leadership development program neither to boost my own CV. Teach First offered me the possibility of becoming more than an ordinary teacher. To become a fellow doesn’t only mean to try to teach in an extraordinary way, impacting your students academically. It’s about making a difference in the life of your students. And that opportunity totally drew me in.
Teaching as a fellow, every day provides me with new challenges – and problems – I could not have imagined. Sometimes you just try your best so that students can catch up with the content they have missed over the last few years, or you try helping them when they struggle with basic skills, like reading and writing. Other times students just need someone around, that is neither a teacher nor a social worker, who can make the effort to spend some time to listen to their story, whatever that may be.
I can honestly say that this is the most stressful job I ever had, but at the same time is also the most satisfying. When you hear from a student the sentence “I didn’t fail”, you realize that he isn’t just talking about the last math exam, but also about his way of recovering a place in his future and in society, than you start to recognize that all the efforts were worthy and you may feel that the world is spinning a little bit different than the day before.