Leading the way
Being a teacher or lecturer is a bit like being on stage: you have to entertain and make your ‘performance’ memorable. Key attributes of a teacher are things like a clear, confident voice, passion for the subject and being a good listener and learner yourself.
Beyond these simple skills, teaching, learning and assessing is a very demanding career. You have to be 100% committed to making sure that those you are responsible for really do learn, and take responsibility for their learning.
The different types of student you’ll encounter only adds to this challenge. If you’re working in a Further Education college, you might have up to 20 learners in a class. Those 20 people will have a mixed ability and will absorb knowledge in different ways. Some will like verbal discussion and debate, some will like to read and study, others might like learning by actually practising the task – there’s certainly not one size fits all.
Know your audience
Getting involved in teaching is often about giving something back and passing on your skills and knowledge. You have to remember what you might have been like while you were learning, and be tolerant, understanding, reflective and flexible. Being a really good teacher is about more than just plumbing skills and knowledge – you are shaping learners into responsible young adults.
The key aspect to delivering engaging and exciting lessons is in the preparation to challenge. Without planning, then there is nothing for the learners to do and it quickly becomes a lecture with nodding heads... nodding off to sleep, that is.
Teaching a vocational subject follows a curriculum. This tends to come from an awarding body so that there is a recognised outcome of value. You may find that your experience in the real world means you can extend the learning beyond the set curriculum to a more realistic and challenging pathway; as long as you ensure you are covering every point of the curriculum, and instilling only good practice, that is only to the benefit of your learners.
This real-world experience must also include high levels of skill. In practical sessions you must be able to pipe bend to exacting standards, for example. Your students will look to you for demonstrations of how things should be done, so make sure your own skill levels are up to the task. You should hold a minimum of NVQ Level 3, or equivalent, to teach. Don’t expect to just teach level 1 for a career as things change and so should you.
All courses also include maths and English. This will be either structured lessons or embedded by you within the learning.
Teaching of the vocational subject itself is usually quite straightforward for experienced, qualified traders. But teaching goes beyond the bare bones of the subject.
Throughout the academic year, you’ll become involved in other aspects of learning, covering: safeguarding and wellbeing; health and safety; equality and diversity; mental health awareness and GDPR (General Data Protection Rules).
Caring for the whole student
As a teacher you will have to understand the locality and the background of your training centre and students. Not everyone has a perfect lifestyle or a strong family of support. Part of the teacher’s role is to help people keep to their chosen path no matter what challenges they may face outside the learning environment.
The teacher has to be aware of the individuals’ struggles, not just in education but outside of it, as so much of what happens outside of the classroom or site impacts on their ability to stay focused.
Teaching the teachers
To become a teacher you may have to undertake training to achieve the required qualifications (see ‘Interested in becoming a trainer?’, below). This is where your own learning begins and should include time to reflect on the knowledge attained.
While undertaking a teaching qualification, you may qualify for financial support. You will have to keep your trade qualifications up to date, too: this could be your Gas Safe registration, Water Regulations or UVHW. You must remain qualified above the level of those you teach and assess.
You will have to keep records on your learners in a variety of forms. Top of the list is attendance and taking a register at each lesson. This has to be done with utmost integrity as funding to pay for the learning stems from these records.
Contacting parents or employers when a trend of weakness starts to show is vital, as is celebrating good work and progress. Communication must be nothing less than excellent.
Tracking a learner’s progress is vital as they and you need to know what’s next and how to improve, and this has to be evidenced via data or logged support.
Marking work and giving constructive feedback is a daily task that helps with a student’s engagement and direction.
Team meetings to standardise processes happen quarterly. Other team meetings might be about what’s happening in the wider environment and seeking your input.
Staying up to date
The present climate of working from home is making more people digital-savvy. Working digitally has been part of the educational landscape for a few years now. However, the classroom has changed in recent months and it’s probably fair to say for good. The use of online resources is nothing new for today’s learners as they have been brought up on their phones and computers from an early age. In this respect, you may find yourself playing catch-up with your students, but sound knowledge of digital platforms is essential.
Maintaining industry knowledge is also required because, as you become embedded within education, the industry you’ve previously worked in has also moved on. It’s not unusual to find teachers going about smaller jobs after work or at weekends to maintain skills. Being part of a body such as the CIPHE, with the support we provide to members involved in education and training, is just as relevant. The CIPHE is not only strategic but ahead of most curricula as we share best practice and opportunities.
Interested in becoming a trainer?
If you have experience working as a qualified plumber or heating engineer, and would like to pass on your skills and experience to the next generation, then the CIPHE can help you to get started.
The CIPHE recognises a number of Further Education colleges and private training centres as Approved Training Centres (ATCs). Whatever your particular background or specialism in our industry, the chances are we have an ATC looking for someone just like you, and we can hold your CV and match you with potential new employers. You may not need to hold a teaching qualification as this can be gained on the job with the training provider. You should look at your early years of teaching as undertaking your own apprenticeship.
If you or one of your employees is interested in going into teaching, contact Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager, on firstname.lastname@example.org.