Thoughts from a Robinson Graduate and TeachFirst teacher

Tell me about your time at Robinson?

I read HSPS (SPS and then PPS in those days) and graduated 2012. I’ve got a bit of a passion for Africa so very much picked the most ‘African’ route through the course spending a lot of my third year writing about Congo, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

I also got involved in a lot of the extra stuff Cambridge has to offer. I played all of Football, Cricket, Hockey (a lot), Table-Tennis and Rugby for Robinson. I also ran Robinson Christian Union, captained Robinson Cricket team, captained the University Ski Team and booked the bands and entertainment for Robinson May Ball. I even played once for the University 3rd team Hockey and the Blues cricket. However after a disastrous performance at right back and a golden duck I was never asked back to either of those…

I loved my time at Cambridge. Truth be told I found my course a little bit of a slog early on, however as I grew into it I came to absolutely love it. Being a hard working person in London I also now miss the sport so much…

What happened next?

I graduated with a 2:1 (and a girlfriend who is now my wife). I took a job in private Wealth Management; it was a great job but it didn’t get me excited. So after just over a year I applied to TeachFirst and got on for Maths. I had four months volunteering and over landing in southern African and in June 2014 I started TeachFirst.

What is teaching like?

I teach Maths in a large Academy in North-West London. We serve a highly diverse community with some serious challenges. It’s by some margin the highest adrenaline thing I’ve ever done.

One of the elements of it I love the most is talking to our students about Cambridge and the fantastic opportunities that brings. At our school we’re all about university; on the door of my classroom I have a big poster which reads “Mr Brookes read Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University, Where Will You Go?”

Because I’m so passionate about getting our students to top universities I spend a lot of my time on this. One of my best days in the job came two weeks ago taking a group of year 12’s to subject workshops at Robinson. One of our kids who is a real wizz went to the Maths session and came back absolutely buzzing. He was trying to explain the content to me and I couldn’t understand any of it. What makes it even better is that three years ago he moved here from Romania and didn’t speak a word of English. If he gets a place it will make my year.

What advice would you give anyone applying?

Three things

  1. Cambridge is amazing. I occasionally encounter people who say things like “I’m not sure I want to apply, it sounds like so much work”. Yes, Cambridge students do work hard. However they also play hard too and I had an amazing three year full of so much fun.
  2. Don’t be put off by “Average” GCSE’s. I got A*A*AAAABBBC at GCSE. Good but not much compared to my wife’s 10 A*’s. I really got my head down in year 12 and 13 and got the grades I needed to.
  3. Apply for what you’re passionate about. I actually applied to Cambridge twice, once for History and once for SPS. I didn’t really want to do History and I think the interviewer just saw straight through that. I was so much more passionate and engaged when it was about Politics.