ELLE (UK)

WHY I TEACH

HISTORY TEACHER LILA CHERRIH, 26, ON THE POWER OF EDUCATION AND WHY TEACHING WILL NEVER BE BORING

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I believe that education is the single most powerful vehicle for social justice and mobility. I grew up in a single-parent working-class home in Haringey, north London, and education was the gateway to opportunit­ies that might otherwise have been out of reach for me. My mum placed a strong emphasis on working hard and being successful at school. I went on to get a First in History from Oxford University, before completing a Master’s in Palestine Studies at SOAS, University of London.

During and after university, I spent some time volunteeri­ng in Israel and Palestine, first at a children’s centre in a refugee camp and later for Amnesty Internatio­nal in Tel Aviv. After my Master’s, I got a job with a Non-Government­al Organisati­on working with conflict mediation in the Middle East. It was a truly unique experience. For the young people I came into contact with – particular­ly in Gaza – education was hugely important not only to their own futures, but to that of their country.

I loved my role, but I wanted to make a more tangible impact, so after 18 months, I decided to register with Teach First, a charity that partners with schools in disadvanta­ged areas to offer on-the-job training. Within a month, I’d resigned from the NGO and signed up to begin training as a history teacher at a secondary school in north London instead. The immediate reward of teaching is something that few profession­s can match. You get to see students’ progress and make an impact on a daily basis.

I believe the role of teachers is to give students the foundation upon which they can pursue their dreams and aspiration­s. For some of my students, that may be to become a journalist, a politician or, indeed, an NBA basketball player. Their chosen end goal is undoubtedl­y important, but the focus should always be on ensuring that doors remain open to them.

I always knew that if I went into teaching I would teach history. It shapes young people’s understand­ing of the world around them and develops their ability to think critically. It’s by no means a job where you clock off at 5pm; you take it home – in the obvious sense of marking and planning, but also emotionall­y.

It’s the children who really make it rewarding and worthwhile. From the Year 9 student who wants to be a ‘space nurse’ to the one who insists I must have seven husbands because I wear seven rings, they keep me going in the toughest moments. They provide the laughter and highs, and every day I get to see the impact I’m making. It’s a job I’ll never be bored of. If you want to help inspire the next generation and ensure they have every opportunit­y, whatever their background, consider a career in teaching. To find out more about the different ways you can train as a teacher, search ‘Get Into Teaching’

“THE IMMEDIATE REWARD IS SOMETHING THAT FEW JOBS CAN MATCH”

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