Becoming a teacher wasn’t part of my plan, but I enjoy working with young people in an educational setting. I didn’t have many black teachers in school growing up and I didn’t see myself, as a black person in the National Curriculum, other than when the history teacher made us watch Roots for Black History Month.
After I graduated from university in 2013, I didn’t want to be an unemployed graduate, so I applied for a Learning Support Assistant role in a Jewish secondary school. I enjoyed supporting students with special educational needs. I had a better understanding of different disabilities, learning styles and what it meant to make learning accessible for all. This gave me an insight into teaching and I would advise anyone who wants to become a teacher, be an LSA/TA first. As an LSA, I did more than support in lessons. I also planned and taught English lessons, for students who had English as an additional language (EAL). I was young and naive and didn’t realise I should’ve been paid more for taking on extra responsibilities. It was sold to me as a “great opportunity” so I ran with it. If you are asked to take on extra responsibility in the teaching field, don’t allow management to use you. Make sure you get paid for it.
I went down the Schools Direct route in 2014 to become a qualified Science Teacher. This allowed me to have hands on experience from the start, get paid whilst working and have sole responsibility for my classes.
Since 2012 I have taught PE, citizenship/PSHE, English, Maths and Science. I’ve worked in a Catholic school, Jewish school, non- faith school and a Pupil Referral Unit. I’ve also been a School Governor, where I was the only black person on the board. My experiences have taught me valuable lessons and opened my eyes to a lot of things in the education sector, that definitely need to improve.
I want my students to see themselves not only in those who teach them, but also in the curriculum. Look inside any AQA, Edexcel or OCR science textbook and you will see white scientists and inventors, but not black ones. So whether it’s on my display boards or incorporated in my presentations and lesson plans, I purposely point out what black people have contributed to science and technology. Representation matters in every level of teaching and in the curriculum.
I started the Young Black Teachers Network, as I did some research and found that Black teachers make up 2% of the teacher workforce in England. I understand teaching isn’t for everyone, we need the right people for the job and almost a third of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. I wanted to leave too, but I’m still here because I know the impact I have on my students, especially the young black boys and girls.
When I first started teaching, I naturally gravitated towards black teachers. They advised me and shared their experiences over the years with me. I want YBTN to be just that; a safe space where we can discuss our concerns as black teachers; negotiating salaries, micro-aggression and more. I advertise job roles via the insta page. I want teachers to share good practice within and between subjects, getting into leadership roles and how to better serve the students we teach. The first YBTN event will take place in February 2019.
Kemi Oloyede founder of YBTN