(This is the first article in a series about armed services personnel making the transition to teaching in FE supported by the Further Forces career programme)
After 24 years in the navy’s submarine service as a data analyst, Leigh Pickard-Morrish left to teach level 4 apprentices at Exeter College from September 2019
How did you get into data analysis?
I left school with a GNVQ in leisure and tourism while working part-time in the industry. But I’d also been a sea cadet for many years which inspired me to join the navy. I worked in data analysis as a tactical submarine specialist, reached the rank of chief petty-officer (ie I headed my own ‘department’ on board a submarine). I then took on two shore-based teaching roles before leaving the navy and that, together with the support of Further Forces, helped me make an almost seamless transition to FE.
Particular skills you’ve taken into teaching?
I did all my teacher training in the military in a tri-service environment - that’s what really inspired me to take up a teaching career. It was hearing all the different opinions from the Army, RAF and Royal Marines and talking to them about the challenges and successes they had had.
I gained an online one-year leadership and management degree for the armed forces from Northumbria University. I also did a Chartered Management Institute course in coaching and mentoring (level 5) to support our goal of embedding a coaching mentality throughout the submarine service.
I developed a sound coaching/teaching model in the forces, based on good and bad experiences in the workplace. I seemed to get more out of my team coaching for success than using traditional military methods!
In my navy job you had to get everything right. Get it wrong and it could have an awful impact. It was all teamwork. Everyone had a role to play; they trusted each other implicitly and that was down to the training received. I’ve taken that approach into college.
In my final posting at the submarine school I’d always start lessons with “How did it go yesterday?”, “How is everyone this morning?”, and talk about what they did last night. I’d then introduce the day’s subject, give them learning objectives to aim for, and finish the day getting them to give me a positive and negative experience and reflect on the day. I’d encourage a peer-to-peer teaching environment.
How did you find out about the Further Forces programme?
I was at a careers fair run by the Career Transition Partnership at Bristol and came across Further Forces, a scheme based at the University of Portsmouth that recruits and retrains services leavers to teach technical subjects. They seemed impressed with my CV and that was my lightbulb moment regarding FE. I’d been head of centre for seven qualifications we had brought into the submarine service; I’d written two because I’m also a qualified qualification writer. It helps a lot when you actually deliver the courses - you understand why technical standards exist, what they mean and what you have to cover as a teacher.
Your main role?
Lecturer, coach and assessor. My key function is skills officer. I’m responsible for 27 level 4 apprentices (HND/HNC) across the south-west, normally catching up with them in their workplaces every eight weeks. I coach, help them set goals, and teach them one day a week in college.
A typical day?
Before lockdown, I’d catch up first thing at the college and otherwise be out all day apart from teaching days. I’d have a one-hour ‘review’ with each apprentice (currently online), which needs considerable planning and preparation. I ensure I know about any problems they have faced, stay up to date with their goals and have marked all their work to provide timely feedback - and then I mostly listen and identify any areas they want to work on and link that in context to the apprenticeship programme. The students must complete a portfolio during their two-year apprenticeship so we’ll discuss any project they have at work in great detail and I’ll show them where their projects fit within the portfolio.
Since lockdown, I’ve spent the first hour each day preparing and doing admin and emails. I then teach from home from 9am, delivering lessons and lectures online to the apprentices who have been at home and maintaining ‘virtual’ catch-up visits
The syllabus includes the data lifecycle, basic and advanced statistics, applications and tools used in statistical analysis, and how to present and visualise the data.
A recent task you have undertaken?
My first online lesson! I aimed to make it as normal a college lesson as possible. I used Microsoft’s Teams videoconferencing software to teach and chat with students. I started by saying hello, taking a quick register, and then sending them an activity question to get their juices flowing - you might hear something really current on the radio and get students to statistically analyse it next day for the first 15 minutes just to get them back into a classroom mindset. Then I delivered lesson content - in this case Hadoop fundamentals (a software tool for processing datasets). I’d then ask them about what we’d covered, they’d give answers after research, take a coffee break, and then watch a video or try out new tools. It took a long time to set up - I tried to create variety so it was not just me talking - and fortunately students gave me some early positive feedback that it was just like a normal college day.
What sort of teacher training are you doing?
I’m on a part-time, two-year teacher training PGCE course at the University of Portsmouth which takes up an average six hours of my own time a week (anything between 0 to 18 hours) on top of normal college teaching, preparation and marking. I’m taking four modules: active learning; blended learning with behaviour management; collaborative research and report writing; and a research project. My independent mentor and my tutor are first-class; the tutor calls and treats us all as colleagues because we are all teaching.
Any hurdles during your transition to FE?
I left the military very quickly - Exeter College offered me a start date six months before my official leaving date and so I didn’t get any resettlement time. The Navy was really flexible and let me leave early - I was offered the job on Monday, left the Navy the following Friday and was working in college 30 days later. It was a huge relief when I got my mentor to observe my first college lesson and received good feedback.
A key challenge in the job?
Juggling university, college and home life. In the navy, I was either at work or home. But since September, I’ve had to change my working practice three times from navy to college to lockdown … it’s been a unique challenge for my family.
Advice for other service leavers considering teaching?
Use all the generous training support you can get in a tri-service (army, navy, airforce) environment where I did much of my teacher training. And do speak to the Further Forces programme - I can’t praise them enough for their support.
One thing you are particularly proud of?
When I was first invited to share my expertise, knowledge and experience with colleagues and felt I’d become really part of the team.
Personal qualities and skills do you need for the job?
Being innovative, motivated and reflective as part of your basic practice; plus the ability to show compassion, listen and give constructive feedback, all of them qualities valued in the military. And don’t forget all those transferable skills you will have developed in the forces or elsewhere that you don’t know you have!
For civilian applicants, a degree in data analysis or a related subject is a must plus several years’ experience as an analyst backed up by regular CPD. Services personnel need to show sufficient experience in data analysis on the job (including management) and key military RQF (regulated qualification framework) qualifications up to level 4, plus ongoing CPD training. Teacher training should include a PGCE or other qualifications (new lecturers, like myself, are very often sponsored by their college to study part-time).
What inspires you to teach in FE?
My college’s recognition of everybody’s strengths so learners get the most out of us, plus its ‘active lesson’ approach, which fully engages students and makes learning fun.
Further Forces so far has over 150 trainees engaged in teacher training on the path to becoming full-time technical teachers in Further Education.
The Education and Training Foundation Further Forces programme is funded by the Department for Education, and supported by the Ministry of Defence and Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Further Forces is for individuals leaving the Armed Forces who want to transition into Further Education technical teaching roles in England, using their technical expertise, knowledge, and skills. We train all Service Leavers and match them with FE providers looking to fill technical teaching vacancies. There is no charge to the Service Leavers or FE providers.
Deadline for Service Leavers to register interest is 31 August 2020.
Find out more: call 023 9284 5258 or email [email protected]
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