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Working in Further Education - advice needed

(6 Posts)
Spoo Thu 17-Sep-09 10:04:30

I have been thinking about a career change for a while. I am a chartered civil engineer with over 10 years experience. I was thinking about moving into Teaching, but I have since found out more about doing a Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector. I can do this part time (one afternoon a week) whilst earning as a teacher in a Higher education college.

I have found a college near me that does Civil Engineering as an HND, also a college very close to me offers the DTLLS. I haven't yet spoken to either of them.

Please can you tell me your experiences of working in this sector?

I currently only work 18 hours a week - could this fit in with the teaching?

How much work is involved on the DTTLS?

What is it like teaching teenagers on the verge of adulthood?

What are the biggest challenges to you?

Will I enjoy it?

slalomsuki Thu 17-Sep-09 10:41:29

You need to be clear if its HE ie university level or FE ie post 16 college level since they really are two different things and you may find that if you choose one and want to change then you will find it difficult to move over.

I teach HE and its fine on the basis that students want to be here and are paying for it rather than FE where its soon going to be a requirement that they stay on to 18 and some may not want to be there and be disruptive.

In HE you realy only have to be in class to teach and then you are free to do other things etc or work from home. FE is a bit more restrictive ie timetabled and in the office.

My biggest challenge when I moved out of industry was putting togther the correct level of materials and also learnning that I was part of a very large public body that decisions were slower in the making

slug Thu 17-Sep-09 10:43:32

I worked in FE for over a decade. I did the PGCE in Post Compulsary Education and Training. I can't comment on the DTTLS as I have no experience of it. However:

Please can you tell me your experiences of working in this sector?
Overall I enjoyed it, but be prepared to have to write your own Schemes of Work and do the vast majority of assessment. There are few external exams in this sector so you end up spending a lot of time doing what my boss referred to as 'Eternal verification'.

I currently only work 18 hours a week - could this fit in with the teaching?
In my experience, FE is the best when it comes to part time teaching. In my department of 17, only 5 were on full time contracts. The rest of us were fractional. Full time jobs are rare as hen's teeth, but being flexible with your hours on your other job will make life easier, especially when it comes to timetabling.

What is it like teaching teenagers on the verge of adulthood?
It depends on where you are working. I worked in an extremely deprived area of the country so there were issues of gangs, poverty, forced marriages and low expectations to contend with as well as the usual adolescent tantrums. The biggest problem I felt was I was teaching (mostly boys) with mens bodies and children's emotional responses. This can be a highly combustible mix, especially when added to the social and cultural issues they faced. They all recognised the need for 'respect' but few grasped the concept of responsibility that accompanies it i.e. they felt they deserved respect because they were adults at college, but they routinely did not act like adults and gave little in return.

If you work in a college you have to be aware that many of the students you recruit may have been refused a place in their school 6th form. This can be because the school does not offer the course they want, the school syphons off the academically brightest, the school may not want them back because of behavioural issues or they may have failed the conventional academic route (often because of behavioural issues). Do not kid yourself that they are at college because they want to be there. The benefits system means many are forced back into education becuse their parents lose their bemnefits for post 16 children or they cannot draw JSA. For many, this is just a hoop they have to jump through to get money. Don't expect classes full of bright eyed eager students.

However, one of the great joys of FE is giving these precise students a second chance. They come to you with their history effectively wiped claean and many do make the effort. Even the ones that appear the most hopeless on paper can have a bright future in front of them, given a bit of encouragement (I briefly taught a young lad who now performs under the name Dizzy Rascal, and a right little horror he was too, but with a great sense of humour). You can have an adult conversation with them, they make you laugh and some of them end up being life long friends.

What are the biggest challenges to you?
See above. It's not a good idea to try teaching at this level if you are at all precious about being the 'expert'. You will always encounter students with questions you can't answer and ones who are much, much brighter than you. If you can say "I don't know, but let's find out together" without losing your self esteem or feeling belittled then you are half way there. Believe it or not, I've known a lot of teachers who can't do that simple thing.

Will I enjoy it?
That one is the hardest to predict. I strongly recommend you work shadow someone for a few weeks to get a sense of how it all works. I've mentored a fair few student teachers in my time and I never know when I meet them whether or not they will cope, but after a few weeks I can usually tell if they will survive.

Finally, can I recomment the TES for the view from the chalkface.

Spoo Thu 17-Sep-09 11:48:38

Thank you Slalom Suki - I was ony really interested in FE rather than HE. Working in university in my field of expertise probably requires a higher level of academia than I am used to. Most of the lecturers at my uni had a Masters or PhD and were undertaking various research projects at the same time as lecturing. This is a field alien to me.

Slug - Thank you so much for your useful insight. The college I am looking at is in Worcester. The majority of the students will be boys - being an engineering course. Most will have at least 4 A-C GCSEs. I don't suppose they will be the complete misfits but I imagine that they may have issues from previous education.

I think I should make contact with the college first and see whether I can visit or undertake some work shadowing as you recommend.

I have to shoot off to get DS1 from school but thanks for your advice.

tink123 Tue 22-Sep-09 20:52:44

I have just started dtlls/pgce and I have heard work load is not too bad as long as you get your teaching hours in. Alot of the assignments are based on what you do for your teaching role anyway so you can use assignments for coursework and teaching IYSWIM.

tink123 Tue 22-Sep-09 20:54:34

Forgot to say, I started same course last year (pulled out due to family bereavement) and I was on course with engineers and they were in high demand to the point of earning £37 p h for teaching even whilst training. They are desperate for engineering teachers

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