Kai Fürst, 2013 Cohort (Mathematics)

Voices - 1 August 2014

Kai takes us on the journey that led him to joining Teach First NZ, as well as his experiences in school so far.

Less than two years ago, in October of 2012, I was living the life of a flight attendant for a large Middle Eastern airline. A question I have frequently been asked since then is: How and why does one go from being a flight attendant in Dubai to being a teacher in New Zealand? Despite having had countless opportunities to practice, I still don’t have a short answer to this question and have to go back to describing the factors that influenced my decision to pack my bags and brought me to where I am now:

It was the frustration of experiencing the inequality around me during my travels, painfully obvious in some places, much less apparent but nonetheless present in others. Feeling like I was not making any contribution towards the struggle towards a more equitable world. The realisation that I would never have made it to the very privileged position of being paid a considerable wage to travel the world in relative luxury, without the help and determination of some very, very patient teachers along the way. The fact that the knowledge of a subject I had spent years studying was mostly gathering dust, replaced by a desire to work and interact with people. Coming across a Teach First advert by chance and realising that teaching could potentially present a way to combine both of these passions.

If I had to list the most important factors that make a job or position appealing to me, I would say it is to be given challenges and responsibilities, to bring my own personality and decision making into my work, and to work within a team, towards a common goal. I would use all of these phrases when describing my role as a beginning teacher under the guidance of the Teach First NZ programme.

The challenges at times have been greater than I would have liked and the responsibilities heavier than anticipated. Rather than learning a “way to teach”, it has been more like a journey of guided “trial and error” in making my own personality work in a classroom with a lot of support and invaluable knowledge shared by both experts of the field and my peers. While the end of the two year programme is nearing, I am far from being able to claim that I now know how to teach. What I can claim, is that the steps I take are more deliberate, my thinking in planning a lesson has shifted from “what activity fits into the course outline?” to “how are my kids going to learn what they need to today?”

There have been moments in which I quietly thought to myself, “What have I done?” Thoughts of giving up have crossed my mind, but there was never time to contemplate it further, for there were always lessons to plan, assessments to mark, reports to write or assignments to hand in. On many occasions I have missed the seemingly endless amount of free time that my previous job had offered, the travelling, the flying and, most importantly, the hotel breakfast buffets. But I recall the end of last year when one of my more vocal students, who had been rather critical of my ability to teach a class, wrote a thank you note stating that this had been the first year she had passed all of her maths assessments.

I reflect on the reasons I signed up for this in the first place and on the amount of growth and learning that has occurred since then. After 1 ½ years of Teach First NZ, I feel more connected to and have a deeper understanding of this land that I live in than I ever did during my 6 years of schooling and growing up in New Zealand and I know I am right where I should be.