I am a higher and further education lecturer in Electrical Engineering, teaching a variety of subjects including microprocessor systems and applications, further electrical principles and software design, which are all in further education. I also teach electrical science, electrical and electronic principles, electrical power and engineering projects in higher education.
I am at my desk preparing for my lectures today. From 10:30am I am in and out of lectures all day. So this is our preparation or organisational period, where I do my paper work and get myself set up for the day.
I have one in the morning which is an HE class and then three FE classes in the afternoon, which is software design, microprocessor systems and further design… And tomorrow is another day!
27 years. I started teaching in 1985 and I have worked in various colleges across my career.
I started in 1985 at Bolton College and lectured there for 17 years before moving on to Rochdale and Middleton in Lancashire. I taught there for a further 8 years, before I was called over by colleagues in Bradford College to work here, where I have been for the last 5 years.
Further education mainly, but in the last 10 years I have moved across more to higher education.
It was really a fluke, I was finishing my HNC at Bolton College and my course tutor approached me and said would I care to do some part-time teaching to look after a class on basic electrical engineering. I wasn’t thinking of teaching up to that point because I was hoping to go into industry, but I soon got hooked and after that point it was my career from then on.
When I go into the class, I give a 20 minute lecture then do a practical and then give students time to get some hands-on experience for the rest of the period. So I don’t sit at the front of class delivering a 90-minute lecture, I want to get my students involved in the subject that I teach.
To some extent through the teaching style and the way it is delivered to the students are governed by the college. For instance the college wants us to do more differentiated learning, which means that everyone must be given work to suit their level and get practical experience in class.
Moan to the wife… In all seriousness I speak to my colleagues at work, I have some really good work fellows and if there are any issues I will confide in them.
It is a very small world in FE; for instance if you move about in your career like I have, you soon realise that everyone knows everyone, which is great.
In order to get into a career in FE, especially in teaching, you need to have a fire in your belly and a real passion for it. You would also have to be happy with being assessed as we are monitored and observed to make sure we are performing to the level that our students and the college require.
I am one hundred per cent absorbed in the subject that I teach. Although I am a lecturer in electrical engineering it is also my hobby, so when I teach it I am sharing my hobby with my students and I hope this passion comes across in class. I am seen by the students as a bit zainy and very expressive, so my arms are all over the place. I am even known to fall over chairs in order to get to my desk to teach. I regularly use the interactive board to access images and movie clips in order to make my classes as fun and exciting as possible.
I would suggest that you don’t just become a specialist in one particular area, as the college will probably want to encourage you into learning other areas of engineering. This is great, as it means that you can learn a variety of different areas over the course of your career. For instance, I started as a specialist in electrical engineering in radio and television, but now I have re-invented myself as an electrical installation engineer. Therefore my recommendation for anyone coming in is be ready to diversify, learn various aspects of engineering. Be flexible, adaptable and open-minded that although you have done a degree in one subject, that is just a stepping stone onto the path of your teaching career.
I would suggest that one of the biggest challenges that we face as teaching staff is that some of the students I see today don’t have the same level of maths and English skills that they had before. Therefore you will have to help students with their sentences and structure, as a lot of the work that we do is assignment and coursework based.
We have an excellent online portal where students can log in and access assignments, resources, class timetables and even upload coursework. They can access all this information through their phone or computer, so it’s about adapting to the environment that you are in and providing additional resources to help our students.
It would have to be someone who is technically minded; someone who knows their way around a computer and other devices, and is savvy in IT, internet and mobile phones. This is how you relate to many students as it is the world that they live in. Someone with a knowledge of engineering and ideally some industrial background, as this is a void in the students’ learning. If you are able to draw on this industrial experience it will benefit them in the long run. You need to be open-minded and sociable, as this will help you relate to your students. But most importantly you need to be willing to sacrifice your time, as even outside of class you may be asked to help students who are struggling with their work.
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