Emma Sheppard portrait

Written by Emma Sheppard

Emma founded The MTPT Project, the UK's charity for parent teachers, in 2016 when on maternity leave with her first child. She has 12 years experience as an English teacher, Lead Practitioner and ITT Lead, and now runs The MTPT Project full time.

When I trained to teach in 2010, I was drawn into the profession by the motivation to Make a Difference.  I wanted to be a Changemaker; to have Social Impact; to Do Good.  And I was willing to work all hours and make sacrifices to – essentially – satisfy my guilty white saviour complex.

Maybe that’s a little cutting: after all, a sense of moral purpose and the pursuit of meaningful work are values to live and stand by.

But, two years later, after missing holidays with my family, developing chronic migraines and unable to identify any other hobbies beyond the bassoon that I had once enjoyed (but no longer had time to play), I burnt out and quit UK education for a stint in an international school, and the luxury of an expat lifestyle.

Vivid memories of two recruitment videos remain with me from this time.  In the first, a young man rides to school in the dark, and is the first in the building to switch on the lights.  He excels at his job, cares for his students.  At no point do we see him doing anything other than living and breathing teaching.

In the second, a young man wakes up, arrives at school, and we jump between his previous office job (dull) and his current teaching role (fulfilling).  At dinner time, he talks about how great teaching is and then gets into bed, and the cycle repeats itself.  At no point is there anything in his life other than teaching (and the back of his girlfriend’s head).

There is nothing incorrect about either advert: teaching is a brilliant and life-affirming career.  And – let’s admit it – as teachers, we do love to regale our friends and family members with hilarious school anecdotes at every opportunity.  The kids are the best bit.  Indeed, both adverts are powerful appeals to potential recruits who want to do nothing but teach.

But for how long do we want to – or are we capable of – martyring our whole lives to our profession?

Surely, if we want to see improved teacher retention, we need recruitment campaigns that sell teaching as a career choice that allows for a life beyond the classroom?

This is where a recent video from Reach Teacher Training has got things so right.  Like the videos previously mentioned, this advert follows two teachers from the start to the end of their working day, but the marketing team behind this piece have made some deliberate directorial decisions about the culture that new recruits can expect at Reach.

In the first iteration of the video – a 29 second clip – Reach dedicate 6 seconds to images of one of the teachers hugging her own child and waving goodbye at the door before she drives away.  That is 21% of expensive marketing time given over to stating that teaching is a family-friendly career choice – at least at a Reach Academy.

In the second version of the video, Reach set aside a glorious 23 seconds (of 55 seconds in total, so 42% of the entire clip) to the life-friendly nature of their school.  The first teacher joins her running club to run home with her pals in the sunshine.  Meanwhile, we zoom in to the second teacher closing her laptop and checking her watch as she finishes her day.  Her watch says 15:54 and, presumably, she’s on her way to school pick-up.

In both videos, we see the teachers enjoying animated conversations with their students.  We see them delivering excellent lessons.  We see them Making a Difference.

Indeed, the text that accompanies the social media posts sharing these videos reads: Join our community; Change lives; Train to teach.

But unlike those adverts that drew me into a military lifestyle of teaching that – as a 22-year-old with no real prior experience of the workplace – I could not sustain, these adverts state very clearly that the dream is possible.  Teaching is a life-friendly career, state Reach, and one that you can enjoy for years to come around all the other beautiful moments that life will offer you.

Bravo, Reach Teacher Training, and the team behind your recent recruitment video.