“Lots of schools are missing male teachers, but we need to make sure they are the right ones.”
Those are the words of Hambi, a SEN Teaching Assistant, whose dedication to teaching is clear, as he talks openly about helping some of the most troubled children across London. After a long-standing career in acting, he now uses those skills to connect with young people and provide them with an outlet for their anger.
“I call myself a behaviour specialist, that’s my strong point. I’ve worked in therapy schools in East London and worked in behaviour management. It’s about seeing the signs of bad behaviour before the child does and helping them understand what their triggers are and what they can control.”
Leaving the stage
As an actor, Hambi wasn’t always guaranteed steady work. Attending auditions and not receiving regular pay, encouraged him to look for a job with more consistency. After 20 years in acting, Hambi decided to become a Teaching Assistant and recalls the dramatic events of his first job.
“When I turned up to the school, a door had been pulled off its hinges and 3 students were surrounded by police in stab vests and handcuffed to the ground. I ended up staying for 5 years and worked in their therapy unit dealing with students who self-harm and have undiagnosed mental health conditions.”
Hambi registered with CER this summer, after moving to York to be closer to family. He has worked in a range of schools, from Secondary to Special Educational Needs settings.
“My mother-in-law is head of a primary school here, so we moved out of London and I continued online interventions with my SEN students, but the work soon dried up. I ended up working for test and trace during the pandemic, as that was the only work available, but I missed working in schools.”
As Hambi returned to teaching, he speaks fondly about the service he has received from CER and how its personal approach made it easy for him to choose CER as an agency. CER has listened to his needs and has offered short term, local placements to suit his lifestyle, as well as providing nursery work in the summer holidays.
“I chose CER because after my first conversation with my consultant Gemma, I knew I could be upfront with her and specify what I was looking for. I had done the same with other agencies and they had just given me the same old sales pitch. I know when I go into a school, they are going to have my back.”
When it comes to education, Hambi is committed to supporting students outside of the average lesson plan, ensuring that any personal problems are dealt with before they are introduced into a regular classroom environment.
He says: “I’ve worked in every type of school, mainstream, secondary, therapy and primary. If the teams are all working to a common goal, I like to stay. My approach for special needs children is education second – let’s find out what the obstacle is and get them back on track, then introduce education. How are you going to be able to do algebra if you’re not tuned in and focused on learning?
“At the start of every day, check in with them. My ethos is if you don’t understand something, that’s my fault because I have explained it wrong. It would infuriate me at school when teachers didn’t explain things to me.”
Finding his niche
Reflecting on his own school days, Hambi recalls the drama teacher that helped him unlock his potential and pushed him towards an acting career.
“In primary school, I was really quiet and very shy. My mum was worried and asked the teacher for help. He told her about a drama group after school. So, I went along and I just came alive. My imagination ran wild. I could escape this world and be playful. He really pushed that and my love for theatre all grew from there.
“I had such a different experience in secondary school, I didn’t like it. My mum continued those drama classes and I knew I wanted to go to drama school. They supported my career and got me there. Out of 11,000 people, I got a place and got an acting job 2 weeks after I left.”
Hambi has continued to share his love of theatre and incorporate that into his teaching methods, with surprising results from his students.
“One school I worked in saw my skills in drama and wanted me to lead the classes even though I was a TA. I found a lot of the pupils had a rawness and they could tap into something that you can’t teach.”
Education is a profession which is dominated by females, something which Hambi feels needs to be addressed, as children from difficult backgrounds fail to have any male role models in their lives, which can ultimately lead them down the wrong path.
He explains: “A lot of children in therapy schools have no men in their lives; they are raised by grandparents or aunties. They can relate to me and I can have those conversations that they enjoy. I tell them my life story and they see there is hope for them too.”
Being brought up by all women, Hambi is determined to be a positive male influence on the children he works with and support them the best way he can.
“It makes you appreciate what you do have and who has been there for you. That’s why I love working young people. They see someone who will listen to them.
“You have got to prove yourself. We are lacking young, energetic, forward-thinking males. Some people have a natural ability to communicate with young people, but men don’t see the appeal. It is hard work, but it’s stable. We will always need teachers.”
If you are experienced in working with SEN students, take a look at our latest job vacancies on our website.