What Is Teaching In Further Education Really Like?
A teaching day in Further Education (FE) is busy and varied. The range of tasks demand that you plan ahead, keep organised and build in flexibility in order to accommodate last minute changes or requests. Here are just some of the elements that make up the teaching day.
On average you’ll spend two-thirds of your contracted hours in ‘contact time’; meaning teaching in a classroom setting. For example, if you work 37 hours a week, you can expect to have scheduled lessons and lectures for 24 hours. These will be spread across the working week but you will find you have more ‘free time’ on some days and less on others.
Lesson time can take place in a variety of settings and may encompass a formal teaching session, practical activities and informal group discussion. The class size varies quite dramatically and can depend on the size of the organisation, its location and the subject you teach.
This time doesn’t include any one to one tutorials you may be asked to carry out.
Planning, preparation and assessment
So much of a successful teaching career is down to being an organised and methodical planner. This can include researching developments in your subject and in teaching and learning theory, writing and adapting lesson plans and schemes of work, assessing student’s work and monitoring ongoing performance in line with college requirements, preparing resources and materials, filling out the appropriate paperwork, answering emails, reflecting on what you’re learning, organising additional support, liaising with colleagues and managers and maintaining student records. This isn’t an exhaustive list and your responsibilities can change as you develop in your role and organisation.
You’ll act as a personal tutor to students, providing one to one support. This can be on a pre-agreed basis or ad hoc; requests can occur at the most unexpected of times which may be challenging to oblige. Extra support is often needed around exam and assessment times. As you get to know your students you’ll develop positive working relationships, and act as a listening ear. Student welfare is an essential component of your job role. You’ll need to know the appropriate pathways for support on a range of issues. Often you’ll find you learn a lot about student’s individual circumstances, and support them in their learning, managing issues as they arise.
In most colleges there will be some mandatory training, which most staff are required to attend. This may be on topics such as Information and Learning Technologies (ILT) or a new college initiative, such as a revised assessment process. If you want to progress in your role, however, you’ll need to have a proactive attitude to training. Some new teachers find that as they strive to get on top of their workload, the time they have set aside for training and CPD dwindles. However, it really is worth holding on to that time especially if you want gain qualified status or progress in your field. Check what optional training your organisation offers and take time to consider what your training needs might be. What do you want to become better at? Which areas of education are you interested in? Discuss your ideas with your Team Leader or Head of Department and see what they suggest.
If you’re part qualified or taking a subject specialist qualification, you may have to find time in your day to study. Often you’ll be released from duties to attend the requisite lectures, but may have to juggle the self-study element alongside your usual commitments.
Meetings and events
You’ll be required to attend meetings and briefings. Again some will be regularly scheduled such as departmental gatherings to relay updates and plan policy and programmes. Others will occur only once or twice a year, and are more likely to be related to college-wide policies and procedures.
Events can include open days, parents’ evenings, student interviews, inductions and careers fairs. As you become more familiar with the college year cycle, you’ll know to set time aside when needed.