Thursday, 12 January 2017

What I learnt in my first year of teaching Maths in Further Education

I want to discuss what I learnt over the last year of my teaching within further education. As a new teacher within the field, I have managed to adapt my teaching style, develop key relationships with colleagues and staff as well as adapt to student behaviour and manage it appropriately.

Today I am going to share with you my advice for any new teachers who are looking to move into this field, or to consider the entering the profession entirely. I have learnt these as I went through my own educational journey in teaching this specialist provision, which have in turn allowed (in my opinion) for me to become an effective educator in this sector. If you are considering the move, trust me, you won't regret it. Here are some things I wish I had known before I started my job:

You are going to doubt yourself a lot.

You are going to question everything you know about education, learning, society and the young people you teach. Further Education in the UK is seen as developing the workforce of the future and helping young people achieve their ambitions and dreams. There are going to be days where you feel inadequate, like you don't deserve to be there or that you are a fraud. I encourage you to remind yourself why you did this job in the first place, remember that for every thought you have about your own self-worth, there are many other staff feeling the same thing. Talk to your colleagues about your concerns and spend time learning from more experienced colleagues to gain an advantage in the teaching environment,

You students have been through the system once, and you are their next stop.

Consider going through 11 years of maths education to come out the other end not knowing how to multiply or divide? Not understanding the fundamental basics of a subject which interacts with nearly all aspects of a young persons life? I can't personally imagine it, but you can empathise with the students you have in your classroom and encourage them to think logically and reason problems out with you. I wish that someone told me how difficult it would be to manage a class when some students will look to criticise and complain about your teaching, but just remember that you need to step into their shoes and try to gain their perspective on their education. Keep yourself grounded.

Pick your fights, and make sure you are not doing it to belittle others.

Students will challenge you and tempt you to negative emotions, they will want you to snap at them and tell them they are stupid or don't deserve to be there. Just keep your head and remember why they are there, they struggle with your subject or they hate it. Show them that you are different and don't get angered easily. One student who is known for refusal said to me the other day that "I've been mad at other maths teachers but I can't be angry with you", why is this? Instead of approaching students to reprimand, ask if they are okay and need any help. Negative behaviour stems from negative emotion, maybe they are struggling to complete a task properly and need 1-1 guidance.

Your colleagues are your lifeline, treat them fairly and respect them equally.

When times are tough, you are not going to rely on your students necessarily to make sure that you are coping well. Some students will seek to make you feel worthless in your role so you have to have an effective support network in your staff. You can talk to them about concerns and worries, they will have their own too so be sure to pay attention, be responsive and supportive to the needs of your colleagues and support staff. Offer to help in a time of need and your team will have your back for your teaching career.

Whatever happens, you are making a difference

Regardless of the feeling of leaving a classroom in despair, some of your students will have gained something new from every lesson you teach them. For some students, this may be by working through an activity in which they now understand, for others it will be the fact that you are the person that lifts them up and tells them they can do it when other people will have let them down. Consider how you interact with everybody each and every day so that you can reflect and improve in your own practice. Some days will feel like you are going through the motions, but you are making an impact, however small, to the students you see every single day.

I hope you have an enjoyable week teachers, and I look forward to talking more about starting further education jobs across the UK. If you have any suggestions or tips for new teachers, be sure to follow me on twitter (@feguidebook) as well as leave a comment below with your suggestions for future content.

- Matt