This week we sat down with Sarah — “that’s Miss O’Grady to you!”— who completed the Teach First programme in Birmingham. She taught Spanish and French for three years, and in 2017 held the position of Head of Spanish. She joined Zen Educate in 2018.

What do you do at Zen Educate?

I work in resourcing: I interview candidates and guide them through the entire process, from their registration to getting their profiles online on the platform as efficiently as possible.

Why did you join Zen?

The ethics behind Zen are what really drew me to the company. The idea of wanting to save schools money but also pay teachers fairly is really important, given budget cuts across the education sector. We only charge schools £20 per day, so they save money and use those savings elsewhere on resources such as revision guides and sports equipment. These are things that children really value, and that have a big impact on their participation and overall achievement.

What is the best part of your job?

I get to speak to interesting, passionate teachers every day, which is great. When you hear that an excellent teacher or TA has interviewed, received great feedback and is wanted back at the school, that is when I feel like I have done my job well.

Working at Zen, what do you look for in a good teacher?

First of all, there is a baseline knowledge that a candidate must have. They must know their stuff on safeguarding and really want to work with children. A teacher can’t be on the platform unless they have read the DfE ‘Keeping children safe in schools’ document and I am happy that they have understood this document thoroughly. I also want to hear things like why they love teaching, what their connection is like with their students, and what their proudest moment in teaching is.

The best teachers are the ones who will hear a tricky question such as ‘tell me about the best lesson you’ve planned and taught’, and they can’t think of just one answer because there are too many in their head to choose from. Then they go on to tell me about a lesson where they used a book to inspire writing and then went on to create a play, which led to a group discussion, before the students then teamed together to build something. That’s the kind of lesson I want to hear about because they’ve put a lot of thought, excitement and so much of themselves into that lesson. That’s what schools look for, they want you to bring the classroom alive.

We have a great team here at Zen HQ, working together to support our teachers, TAs and schools. Get to know us a little better with our Meet and Greet article series.