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Making the transition into teaching;
Kiren Azam

What did you do before becoming a teacher?

I was a trainee solicitor/ Level 2 senior immigration caseworker. I worked in the private immigration team, assisting on all areas of immigration, asylum, EU residence and nationality law. I advised clients on the merits of their cases for an exceptional case funding application and assisted on drafting grounds for them to receive funding on an ‘exceptional basis’. These clients would otherwise be considered private clients however they could not afford legal representation and therefore their cases would fall out-of-scope of legally-funded work. I also helped run and manage the firm's out-of-hours pro-bono service.

I worked closely with the United Nations, the British Red Cross, Bail for Immigration Detainees and local Citizens Advice Bureaus. I would represent and visit clients at detention centres and would attend the centre’s legal clinics to represent detainees. I attended to clients in prison and drafted their witness statements and represented them at immigration tribunals. 

Which skills from your previous career will be useful in the classroom?

I had to act as a role model with personal and professional integrity and this is closely linked to one of the expectations of a teacher. I learned how to analyse information which is a useful skill in the classroom as you can analyse pupil’s strengths or weaknesses and best support them based on their learning abilities and needs. I had to make decisions on impulse and draw logical conclusions which is a practical skill allowing me to support pupils who may be going through a tough time at school.

I also have good people and communication skills developed through advocacy, interviewing clients and drafting of witness statements – it is always important for teachers to manage behaviour to ensure a good and safe learning environment, so good communication skills and developing positive relationships with students is key. Lastly, I have good organisational and time-management skills which will allow me to plan and teach well-structured lessons.

My career in law allowed me to be creative with the solutions I provided my clients. I want to be an inspirational teacher who can be creative with content in language learning.

What inspired you to get into teaching?

My art teacher Andria Zafirakou was awarded the Global Teacher’s Award in 2018 - she was a hugely inspirational figure and role model at school. I grew up in a London borough with high levels of gang violence. Pupils in my year group were excluded from school for carrying weapons into school. At the same time, it was the most diverse borough in London. Our differences as pupils were constantly celebrated and I have nothing but good school memories. My art teacher would stand outside the school gates, greeting pupils in their mother tongues. She would board the same buses as pupils who were too scared to go home as they may become prey to gang leaders. She would challenge police officers where she felt pupils were mistreated or misheard. Thanks to my teacher’s efforts to raise the profile of the arts as a subject in the school and the school’s efforts on the whole, my former school is now within the top 5% of schools in the UK. I aspired to become like my school teacher and this is one of the reasons I want to become a teacher – I loved the experiences I had with her as a pupil and want to become that person for my own pupils one day.

Another reason is that, as the eldest of 5, I took on the big sister role from a very young age. I loved being looked up to and acting as a role model to my siblings. I would assist with their school work and enjoyed setting a routine to help them with their education. Lastly, the birth of my daughter provided me with the push I needed to teach! I felt that if I did not complete my teacher training, I could not expect her to follow her dreams in life.

How has Transition to Teach supported you so far? 

Having the support of Transition to Teach has provided me with the opportunity to have a role model outside of the school setting. Having a highly qualified individual guide me early on in my new career has given me an insight into where I would want to be in a few years’ time. My Guidance and Development Adviser (GDA) supports me with my wellbeing and mental health, which is important in such a fast-paced job where there is a lot of responsibility. This is an entirely new experience for me and knowing that I am receiving professional guidance is extremely reassuring. My GDA has developed years of experience in the education sector and her advice is invaluable. It is always nice to know you have someone there to contact should you require any extra support. We have discussed what skills I can bring to the workplace with advice on how to transfer my skills to this new environment. I also like that the support extends to assistance with my assignments which I need to complete alongside my practical training.

As you move into teaching, what are you most excited about?

I am excited (and equally nervous!) about managing my own class of pupils. I look forward to developing my own teaching persona and sharing my life experiences with pupils. As a pupil, I suffered from severe social anxiety and depression and most of my teachers were not aware of this - I am most excited to help pupils outside of the classroom and support them in a personal capacity where I can. Teenage years are some of the most crucial and life-changing years of a person’s life and to be able to support a young person at this point in their lives is extremely rewarding.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

I want to work in a leadership role outside of the classroom. I see myself working in a school with high levels of disadvantaged pupils and supporting the school and pupils. I see myself leading a team of like-minded individuals who are all working towards the school’s ethos, mission and vision. I am not too sure in what capacity or role I would want to work, however, I do know that I would want to play a part in the school’s running and leadership team.