At MyPlus Students' Club, we want to introduce you to graduates and leaders in the workplace who are pursuing their career ambitions in spite of their disability. This week, we're sharing an interview with Naomi about her career at Teach First and how she manages her dyslexia at work.
Name: Naomi Hosker
Organisation: Teach First / Harris Academy BatterseaDivision and job title: 2011 Teach First ambassador, deputy safeguarding lead and teacher of science (former head of department and lead practitioner of science
University: The University of Edinburgh
Degree: BSc Biological Sciences, Hons Pharmacology
Hobbies: Travelling the world to explore new places, experience new cultures and meet such a variety of people from different backgrounds and with so many stories to tell! I also love fitness and sport (skiing, netball and I even did the London Marathon this year), socialising and… work! I feel lucky to say that I genuinely love my job, I have amazing and very inspirational colleagues, am forever learning and the kids entertain me all day long.
How many applications did you submit for a graduate job? How many interviews did you attend?
Initially, just one successful application and interview for Teach First. During my year out of teaching last year I did then apply for PwC and passed the assessment day but was unsuccessful at interview. On reflection, I don’t think they were the right fit for me and nor me for them. That stands true to the fact that I genuinely believe that applications are a two-way process. I also realised that I had already found my calling in teaching but felt that I needed to find this out myself by exploring some other options before committing long term.
What was the most difficult interview question you have been asked and how did you answer?
Any question for a job that wasn’t right for me. I have performed much better in interviews for jobs that I have a genuine passion for. But in terms of specific questions, sometimes it’s difficult when they ask for scenarios based on things that I haven’t thought about previously. Prior to interviews I just try to think of a few scenarios that would cover a variety of things I could be asked about. It can also be difficult when you are asked to plan something on the spot. It often takes me longer to do such activities as I have a very visual style of working and need a pen and paper to draw. I simply ask for a bit of time.
Were you open about your disability during the application process? What support was provided to you?
Yes, I had extra time for reading (I have dyslexia) where there was a lot of information to process e.g. for the group task at the assessment centre.
What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join this organisation?
I heard about Teach First through somebody at university and their mission really caught my attention. I have always been passionate about working with people from a variety of backgrounds, especially those that may be disadvantaged and I knew that this would be a very colourful life experience and a half! At this point I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career wise, so the fact that the programme is only two years and that it opens up other opportunities after this time was a huge selling point. I also thought that it looked to be the highest quality and most efficient teacher training programme going, through which I would learn so much, so quickly. It did not disappoint!
Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment; what are your day-to-day tasks?
At the moment I am the deputy safeguarding lead (DSL) at a school and teacher of science (mainly year 11’s). The teaching role involves the obvious planning, delivery and marking but I also work to develop colleagues through modelling and sharing best practice, mentoring and coaching. My DSL role involves me safeguarding our students both inside and outside of school. Working in inner city London, this definitely keeps me busy and on my toes. I often deal with gang involvement, child sexual exploitation, mental health issues and e-safety around social media. I love collaborating with professionals from so many different agencies within this role e.g. the police, the council and social services, nurses, counsellors, drugs workers, the youth offending team… the list goes on! But most importantly, the students.
How do you manage your disability at work?
I do tend to work longer hours but it’s because I love my job and take on so much! The main thing I try do is prioritise though, make cut backs where I can afford to and set myself time limits for tasks. I utilise the wealth of talent around me in my colleagues, share resources wherever possible, keep organised and even do smaller things like bullet point documents instead of writing in prose which I feel is easier to read anyway. Be ruthless where you can be.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Building the relationships I have with my year 11 students. We go through such an important time of their lives together so I support them and keep them positive. I also enjoy supporting the vulnerable students I work with through my DSL role. The aim is to ensure that they feel as safe, happy and confident in themselves as possible. Finally, working with such inspirational colleagues that I learn from and laugh with every single day.
What about your job/organisation surprised you when you first started?
The calibre of staff I found myself amongst, the power of the school community and how much the students contributed to this.
What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to manage? Is this affected by your disability?
Time management. As a teacher, your work never has an end point, there are always things to do and most directly impact students, so it is very hard to stop. I work on this every day though - being too tired and unhappy would negatively impact the students too.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability; how has your employer helped you to do well at your workplace?
Teach First and my school worked together to develop a personalised disability support plan for me which included things like deadline extensions for assignments. However, I was fortunate that all my mentors were always incredibly personable and supportive anyway. Within my current school, they ensured that I doubled up on lessons i.e. taught two classes the same content which significantly reduces my planning time, really making a huge difference that I massively appreciate.
What has been your proudest achievement since starting work?
Winning a Jack Petchy Leadership award (voted for by both staff and students) and being asked to deliver continuing professional development (CPD) to colleagues within the Harris Federation.
Tell us about a personal strength or a valuable plus which you have developed, as a result of your disability. How has it helped you in your career?
Empathy for students that face challenges themselves, however these may manifest, but also resilience to turn these into strengths. As well as a huge amount of creativity in my teaching and learning.
What do you wish you knew when you were at university?
That my place at university was as well earnt and well deserved as anybody else’s, despite my background and the challenges I faced.
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
Don’t see it as a disability or ever use it as an excuse, see it as a strength and be bold in choosing pathways and methods that mean you can excel. Be confident in yourself and don’t compare yourself to others, but to the standards you set for you.