Storying Sheffield

What are you going to do with an English degree?

We’re delighted to present this guest blog by Charlie Pritchard-Brennan. Charlie is a 2012 graduate from the University of Sheffield. During the second and third years of her degree she was part of the Storying Sheffield project. This summer she’s preparing to start her first year of teaching at an inner-city school in Sheffield as part of the Teach First leadership development programme.



“What are you going to do with an English degree?” A question too-often asked. “Teach?!” The contemptuous answer too-often put into my mouth. But the answer is ‘teach’, and I’d like to spend a little time talking about why it’s the greatest job for me.

As a child I loved stories. It was true love, and true love lasts a lifetime. So at 19 I moved the 200 miles from Horsham to Sheffield to begin my English literature degree. Now, only three years later, I am sat at my desk planning the first few lessons that I’m going to deliver as an English teacher.

Charlie in her classroom looking over a story written by a year 9 pupil

The time I spent on the Storying Sheffield module during my degree was without a doubt the most influential and inspiring time for me. It was at this time that I developed the beliefs that would later spark my aspiration to teach in the city. I saw first-hand the power of stories in both giving and taking away a voice. I saw the powerful things that can happen when this voice is handed back. I learnt about how common patterns of access often deny routes of expression to those who would benefit from it the most. And I felt the effects that a space for creativity can have on this expression.

I also came to understand things about myself. I learnt about the amount of resilience needed to create even the smallest of changes, and I saw the sheer hard work of a group of people committed to making a difference. I experienced some of the rewards of this hard work and knew that I wanted to continue trying to make change using expression, creativity and narrative. I made the decision to join Teach First’s movement to create change in the classroom through accessible and innovative (fingers crossed) teaching.


The 995 members of the 2012 Teach First cohort


The next two years are going to be more than challenging, but I believe that teaching is the most rewarding job – it’s not just a cliché. I have high expectations of the students that I’ll be teaching, high expectations of the potential and the power of each and every one of their voices. As an English teacher I can facilitate my students in finding their voices, and in doing so begin to open up the possibilities of the social and political world. Teaching English is teaching the power of creativity and expression, the power of voices and stories. And I do love stories.