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Any college lecturers, biology teachers out there - end of tether

(39 Posts)
frustratedworkingmum Fri 25-Jan-13 18:39:17

So, after being out of work for many years i landed a job as a biology lecturer at the local college. Ive never taught before. Everyone told me i was mad as the college is notoriously disorganised. I wish i listened to them.

So, 8 weeks in having taken over a course mid way and then taking on more at xmas i am feeling totally overwhelmed and out of my depth. Ive had NO training, i was teaching alone from day one. I THINK ive done ok and the students respond well to me. I enjoy teaching.

BUT, i am obviously struggling with the workload - i have no lesson plans so am doing them as i go along, i appreciate that i have to do this and it will get better next year as i'll have the power points and will be able to tweak them. Thank GOD for TES as this is where i get some good resources.

The thing is im getting NO support, have had to read up on and sort out everything from schemes of work to exam entries and no one tells me what to do i have to find out for myeslf so im either ringing exams, trawling through the exam board websites etc. I came into the main course im teaching midway through and now realise that surely i can't deliver two units AND an ISA in 12 weeks. The ISA will take 4-6 weeks to do because of the way its done and marked (i'll be marking this with no experience FFS!) Ive had to look this all up myself and its dawned on me horribly that i just can't deliver this - this IS madness isn't it? 2 units of GCSE biology plus an ISA in 12 weeks of 2 hours teaching a week?

Can anyone give me some advice and tips to get me through this - i have a meeting with my line manager on monday and im close to just saying, you know what, i quit, i can't do this but i don't want to. I NEED the money - even though im working every night, all weekend, every day off - im only teaching 10 hours a week and therefore if i work out my pay, its less than min wage. But more importantly, i don't want to let the students down and without support i will do that - i am not sure im up to this? Can anyone, teacher or lecturer help me? These students are paying for their course and they are being let down. What course of action do i take.

I dont feel i can approach my line manager or her manager as they are dismissive and have been unsupportive so far, i suspect it will be a case of "dont let the door hit your arse on the way out" if i raise my concerns.

Please help

Conorwaters Sun 03-Feb-13 14:58:07

Hi- I have been teaching biology for 10 years- what exam board are you- email me -

sashh Sun 03-Feb-13 09:07:08

i am not in a position where i can do a PGCE because i need to be earning.

You need to be on a teaching course, otherwise you will be out of a job in a couple of years.

You need to look for a DTTLS course, this is sometimes advertised as PGCE FE.

You can do it part time, you will get student loans and really the college employing you should pay.

When you have your meeting ask for a mentor. The best thing I had during my training was an excellent mentor.

educatingarti Tue 29-Jan-13 10:49:33

I am a tutor and teach GCSE sciences. What you are saying, I think is that given the ISA, you have 2 hours for 9 weeks to teach 2 units. I'd say that covering at least the bones of that would be possible if you had relatively able students, but if you have students who are struggling,then it would be quite difficult IMO.
If it were me, I would get the CGP revision book for your syllabus and recommend your students buy it and the question book. (Maybe you could do a bulk order for them?)
Explain to the students that through no fault of theirs (or yours) there is an awful lot to cover.
Teach from the CGP revision book - no it won't cover absolutely everything but it will give you the majority of the stuff you need in a way that you could probably cover most of it.

Give them as many practice papers as you can find for homework (there won't be that many as the GCSE syllabuses have changed fairly recently) - outlining which questions they should be able to attempt as you cover the material, as well as questions from the CGP Question books.

If you wanted to (though you shouldn't be required to) you could offer a lunch-time or after college revision session (additional) to go through stuff with anyone who is struggling or to go over questions in more detail. - In the light of the shambles you seem to have inherited, see if the college will pay you for this!

It won't be perfect but if you resign you may leave the students in a worse state - what are the chances that they will find someone else who can cover the material more effectively that you in such a short timescale? If they can - then of course resign, but if it is unlikely - well just do what you can! This year won't be perfect, but you will be able to plan things much more effectively next year and probably have a lot less prep too!

I agree lab techs could be a good source of info on what has normally been covered and how quickly!

Phineyj Tue 29-Jan-13 10:25:12

Could you look at Schools Direct to get trained? It doesn't seem that different to GTP.

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 19:50:03

Thankyou SO SO much TFM, i appreciate it so much xxx They struggled with the long questions in this exam so i will definately be getting them to do one of these every week smile

TheFallenMadonna Sat 26-Jan-13 17:36:57

And I've replied with a bit of a stream of consciousness (and I hope some tips).

Please do keep in touch - we're doing similar things, and I'm happy to discuss and share ideas!!

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 17:10:22

have pm'd you TFM x

TheFallenMadonna Sat 26-Jan-13 17:08:40

Lots of questions on exampro extra from the old spec. You can filter for relevant ones. I taught a unit worth 1/3 of a GCSE in 6 lessons a few years ago. It wasn't pretty but it went OK. You have to be brutal, and you HAVE to include exam questions. PM me.

CAU advisors are for everyone by the way. You are encouraged to use them. So do!

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 16:59:19

FM i think my line manager would hit the roof if i let AQA know the situation. I mean, HOW can she not have read this stuff herself? She hadn't even read the A level stuff and shes the course tutor FFS angry

Gawd, i hope shes not a mnetter

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 16:56:54

I have, today, downloaded the end of unit tests from AQA exampro extra and the past exam papers from last year. Of course this specification only goes back a year so there isn't a bank of them. I am going to have to teach two topics per session - i mean, its just ridiculous and I feel totally out of my depth wiht the ISAs

What was i even thinking sad

When i took over the course in end of november, having never taught before, the previous tutor had only covered less than a third of unit 2, i stupidly assumed they had done unit one, i mean, you would, woudlnt you. I had three teaching weeks before xmas to get them through it and I can only pray that they have done ok in their exam. I feel so responsible now and i wish i never started the bloody job but I have and i can't quit otherwise they will have NO tutor to teach them and then they will be stuffed.

I am, officially, an idiot

HandbagCrab Sat 26-Jan-13 16:46:51

If you have a phd you might fit teach first criteria for schools, have a look at that.

I started off unqualified in fe too! It's definitely a learning curve smile

If you're doing gcse, there will be exam revision guides and textbooks and stuff. Could you buy a revision guide and photocopy it for the students?

If I were you I'd focus on the assessment you need to get done. If the students have to come up with their own experiment why not give them some examples to guide them? You might end up with less that you have to redo.

I find the best way of teaching something is to do it myself. So I would do the whole thing myself so I could see where the pitfalls are. Then I would also have a finished example to show the students.

Once the assessment is done, look at the criteria for the other two units. What do they need to know to pass? Make sure you teach that. What do they need to know to get a C, try your damnedest to cover as much as you can. B-A* either do as extension work or give as homework. Give out the syllabus and then students can go through and identify bits they haven't covered/ don't know.

At this stage you've been left in a shit situation. I've been there and it's hard. Do your best but channel your energy into areas you're going to get results. Don't get disheartened its hard whatever and doubly so with no training and support. Best of luck!

Loshad Sat 26-Jan-13 16:41:07

Frustrated, PM me and i can give you some help with the CGSE CAU.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 26-Jan-13 16:30:38

No, you can't do B2, B3 and an ISA in 24 lessons. I'm planning B2 in 14 lessons and B3 in 16, and that is tight. And 6 lessons for an ISA. And we have already done loads of ISA training with them.

However, I can give you some guidance on the ISA and how to make sure it runs smoothly if you pm me. You should also ask AQA if they can put you in touch with a CAU advisor - our's is fantastic. We asked him loads of stuff last year when we were doing it for the first time. His advice was prompt and we got through moderation unscathed.

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 16:19:29

No such luck happily, all bagged into one group - some of the students are more than capable and i struggle to challenge them whilst some of them really don't get the most basic of concepts. Even the A level groups have students in them who are struggling with some of the stuff they should have covered at GCSE. I worry that I am not explaining things properly so i go over it until they all get it but I have been told to skim through the students have to be independent learners.

I certainly wont be encouraging my DD to go to college. The lecturers are stressed because their work load is too high (im talking about the full timers not me) so they don't have time to prepare. They have to do all the admin on top of their teaching, how does this compare to schools? Its all about pleasing the stakeholders sad

I had a woman drop out of my course a few weeks, she was probably the brightest student, She had personal reasons but i felt i could persuade her to stay as she would have no problems passing. But i wasn't allowed to try and persuade her because apparently losing retention doesn't look so bad as if I persuaded her to stay and she dropped out later and it counted as a fail hmm

I'd jump at teacher training but i don't fit the criteria, despite having a PhD in my subject area, I don't have a GCSE in it so i would have to sit the course i am teaching now!! it mental. I also can't afford to do the PGCE unsalaried and this lovely govt in its infinate wisdom have done away with the GTP.

happilyconfused Sat 26-Jan-13 16:09:30

Hopefully the groups are split so some are foundation and some higher. Not your fault but this is one of the reasons why I say to yr11 to stay in a school sixth form unless they are going to a good college.

frustratedworkingmum Sat 26-Jan-13 00:01:56

Ive asked happily and the answer was no, do it online! I am the only teacher of GCSE biology there, the rest are BTEC. Have found some good end of unit/topic tests on the AQA site based on the past papers - you can make them up out of what questions you want to ask so will definately be using them.

happilyconfused Fri 25-Jan-13 23:45:36

As the very first priority get on the exam board website. Download resources from there. Check examiner feedback comments for the past couple of years. The college is setting you and the students up for a fail. Often students may know what is needed but lack exam technique with regards to how to apply, analyse and evaluate. You can not be the only biology teacher at the college, there must be regular department.

You need to apply to get on a teacher training course in a school if you can not afford a PGCE. At least you will get classroom skills, OFSTED and subject delivery training. Will the college send you on one of the exam board's spring training courses.? Ask

frustratedworkingmum Fri 25-Jan-13 22:39:16

Evil am downloading from TES like a demon as we speak, i dont like delivering other peoples ppts because i dont feel so on top of it but at least i have a framework.

The ISA is a nightmare - its basically - I have to introduce a "scenario" and guide the students to do their own research into a hypothesis and an experiment to test it, i have to mark that, then they have to do the practical (or one i make up for them as thiers may not be suitable), record their data, ten i have to mark that give it back to them for use in the written test. So thats four sessions

It leaves me 8 weeks to do unit 1 and 3 - i need a time machine!

TuftyFinch Fri 25-Jan-13 22:30:14

Are you working where I used to work? I was a lecturer in FE for 10 years until I took voluntary redundancy last year. This is how they operated, it really was a case of the blind leading the blind. None of the teaching staff would ever have let their own children go there.
This is the future though. Employ under qualifed staff with little experience and hope they'll just suck it up. Manangers are being managed by consultants.
The groundwork of the experienced teachers being promoted and then managing is being eroded.
I could go on and on.
I've no real advice but if you want to stay then find a way. Your manager needs to support you but she is probablyb over worked and under experienced too, not an excuse but that's often the reality. That's what happens.
You sound like you are doing a good job and care about tbe students but you need support. You also need to try and find a way to make it work for you. Do you need to do lesson plans and SOW? Are they checked? Is there a staffweb where there are resources? Who taught the course last year, have they got lesson plans/SOW?
You could also try posting on the TES forum, there's loads of people on there who are very helpful.
Also, join the union and ask your rep for advice.
Good luck.

frustratedworkingmum Fri 25-Jan-13 22:22:19

Thanks stainless - i didn't know if i was being expected to do too much or just being rubbish. The science department is a whole but everyone is so stressed out because they are as unsupported as i am i daren't ask. You have made me feel less crap about myself - i don't want to let the students down, they have paid for the course and many of them are relying on it to finish their teaching courses!! its madness that they probably have more teaching experience than i do hmm

Timid you are right, if I leave now the students will be shafted because they wont have anyone will they? Because lets face it, if they gave ME the job they must have been desperate. Im not being sarcastic, but i have no teaching experience apart from teaching undergraduates during my Phd but that was a world away.

Gin - i have been told to do the online standardisation

EvilTwins Fri 25-Jan-13 22:17:30

Have you tried the TES for resources? There's an awful lot there.

StainlessSteelCat Fri 25-Jan-13 22:16:57

lots x posts, and I've re read my post, I'm sorry if I sound cross with you I'm not. As a pp said, you have been put in an impossible situation.

I taught GCSE Biology in a 6th form as a resit course a couple of years ago.. As best I can remember the ISA was over 4 1 hour sessions - practical practice, write up practice, then repeat for real thing. The technicians were extremely helpful - they had done it the previous years.

Being sent on a training course would be lovely, but if the college is strapped for cash, that may be a pipe dream. However, you do need to know how to mark the ISA and you need to moderate it. And you need to know how to do that before you do the ISA with the students so you can teach them what is needed. All this support can and should be provided by the college.

StainlessSteelCat Fri 25-Jan-13 22:08:38

They were wrong to employ you and then not support you. You do need support, it's not fair on you or the students. I am a qualified teacher and have taught AS/A2 and GCSE biology. I have never had to do the amount of organising you have for exam entry and long term planning for the course.

EvilTwins suggestion is excellent, and another suggestion - is there anyone else in the science dept teaching an equivalent course but in Chem or physics? Could you ask them how they are fitting it in - the timings would be very similar. What about the science technicians? If the college has done the course before they will know a lot about the practical side.

Finally - is it feasible to fit those units in to the time available? Well, it will have to be. I have taken over badly taught course before as well, and you have to compromise. Don't miss out a chuck of the course, just cover all of it in less depth, make it clear to the students you are doing that and tell them you expect them to be independent learners. Perhaps make up packs of all the resources you have for each unit along with lists of further information/exam questions/model answers for the students, and explain you can't cover it all, but it's all in there.

You posts also make me angry. Because neither you nor the students should be treated like this. I have worked as a supply teacher for jobs like the one you describe and I have never been as unsupported as you. Why teh college thinks they can let an unknown teacher lose with a class and prepare them for exams is beyond me.

GinandJag Fri 25-Jan-13 22:07:28

You need to insist that you go on exam training. It's a contractural requirement between schools and the exam board that teachers are trained in delivering courses and marking coursework/CAs.

EvilTwins Fri 25-Jan-13 22:04:07

I only asked because if you're anywhere near me I might be able to help. PM if you would rather.

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