Student story: Networking success

AnisaHi, I’m Ani!

I have been a student at Queen Mary for five years and officially almost ready to leave with two degrees this August. I look forward to completing my MA in English studies: English Literature degree and looking especially forward to my first ever winter graduation!

I have always been interested in working in education ever since I knew that academia was for me. The pursuit of research and education as well as having conversations about the future of education is something I have always been passionate about. Hence my decision to experience first-hand tutoring professionally. The QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre have helped me find the right job whilst studying my postgraduate degree to gain some experience in teaching part-time. I was working as a paid English Tutor and tutoring English Literature to post 16 year olds. I was really pleased to hear how much students enjoyed my sessions and personally found the experience to be so rewarding.

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Guest blog: Becoming A Teacher – The Facts

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Thinking about going into teaching? It’s a fantastic, noble career with great prospects for those who stick with it. Let’s look at some of the facts.

You’d be in demand

Teachers are like Tangfastics – there are never enough to go round. If you’re a teacher wannabe, the laws of supply and demand are working in your favour. In today’s dismal graduate job market, that’s nothing to be sniffed at.

The problem – or, in your case, advantage – is particularly strong in scientific fields. Statistics from UCAS show that the numbers of people applying to teach STEM subjects – that’s Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, ICT etc. – fell between 2016 and 2017. And, of those that are in current employment as STEM teachers, only six in ten possess relevant post-A Level qualifications. So if you’ve got a science degree, you’re already at a huge advantage in the teaching field.

It’s rewarding…

You don’t need an article to tell you that teaching is one of the most rewarding careers out there. Nurturing, tutoring and half-raising humans – humans who will go out into the real world and make up the next generation – is the one of the greatest callings there is.

Teaching gives you the change to make a difference – hopefully a positive one. In many cases, you are responsible for large portions of a student’s education; their future prospects, views and ideals rest in your hands.

Education offers numerous other, obvious benefits. For those who enjoyed the rigour and structure of school life, going back to it can be a relief from the chaos of the outer world. And in no other profession will you get a two month summer holiday, reliably, year on year.

… but its also really hard

Despite all these benefits, record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession. In 2016, schools reported that a record 9.5% of staff had departed in the last year. But why?

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Why become a Physics teacher?

This post first appeared on the Develop Your Career blog.

Science based industries currently employ about 5.4 million people. By 2030, this is expected to rise to about 7 million.

But with a shortage of physics teachers in the UK, who is going to teach school children the skills they need to take on these jobs in 15 years time?

At an event recently, Professor Peter Main said that if everyone who is studying physics at university at the moment became a physics teacher, we would still have a shortage of physics teachers!

But the teaching profession is recruiting against many other employers, some of whom can offer enticing pay packages and benefits. So why might someone decide to work as a physics teacher? I asked this question of someone who has left the engineering sector to do just that.

Teaching Physics

Why did you leave your engineering job?

I found working for a big corporation was actually quite slow moving. There were lots of meetings with people talking in jargon about things that didn’t matter at all outside of the corporation. I also felt that there was a process of promotion. So you’d do a job for a couple of years and then you’d be hoping for a promotion. This meant that there were excessive numbers of middle managers and many others trying to impress in order to become middle managers. To be promoted you needed to make an impact or create something, so everyone was creating new processes thus making things more complicated without actually getting anything done. I can’t say that every company is like this, but I decided that I didn’t want to work in a big business.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

I thought about the things that I enjoy. Not just things in the workplace, but my hobbies and interests. I realised that I enjoy performing – I like being on stage, playing the saxophone, giving presentations. I noticed that this was something I had missed since graduating.

I enjoy working with really bright and interesting people but I don’t mind whether they are 17 or 57.

I am still really interested in physics and I wanted to do something related to this, but I have always been broadly interested. I never wanted to specialise.

And I definitely wanted autonomy, to take responsibility and see results from what I was doing.

When I looked at these things, being a physics teacher was clearly a good match for what I was looking for. Because autonomy is so important to me, I also decided that I wanted to work in a private school where I thought I would get the most freedom in terms of my teaching practice. I don’t know if this is accurate, but it was my feeling. It might be different for someone else.

And do you think it was the right decision?

Teaching is great. I work with bright, fun kids. It’s great seeing the kids learning – especially those who found physics difficult, learning that physics can be something that they enjoy and can be good at. It can be very rewarding to see the kids enjoying something because of what you do.

For me, teaching has rewards that are personal (rather than earning returns for a pensions fund). I can see the positive results, the difference that I have made. And I get to use my creativity to adapt to the students needs.

What are the down sides?

Definitely the bureaucracy. There is a lot of protocol so sometimes even when it’s obvious what would be the best thing to do you can’t do it. And teacher chat! Teachers are always saying that there is no job harder than teaching. I can’t think of teaching as hard work because it’s so enjoyable.

Thinking about teaching chemistry? Bursary available

Pursuing a fulfilling career in the teaching industry requires a lot of thought and research. Here is a general checklist of some of the things that you need to have thought about in detail:

–         Do you have the required skills to make a good teacher? Some of the skills and qualities often associated with good teachers include: communication skills, interpersonal and organisation skills. The best teachers are also said to be inspiring, enthusiastic, creative and imaginative.

–         Do you have classroom experience? If you are thinking about teaching but are yet to gain classroom experience, then you better get started. Any kind of experience in a classroom environment will be good and it’s a great way of demonstrating a genuine interest and commitment to teaching.

–         What age group you want to teach? It’s important to establish what age group you would like to teach as there are differences in the routes that have to be taken. Deciding what age group you would like to teach means that you can focus on getting the most relevant experience in advance.

–         What subject do you want to teach? There are a wide range of subjects that you could potentially teach. In making this decision, bear in mind that there are certain subjects that are prioritised more and therefore, there is more financial support readily available.

And finally…

Have you thought about funding? There are a range of bursaries and scholarships available to trainee teachers. Currently there is an opportunity for students interested in becoming chemistry teachers. The Royal Society of Chemistry is offering teacher training scholarship worth up to £25,000. If you are passionate about chemistry and have the potential to be an exceptional chemistry teacher, find out more here: http://www.rsc.org/Education/scholarships/

The deadline is on the 24th May 2015

Also, have a look at this website for more information about teaching in the UK

http://www.prospects.ac.uk/teaching_education_sector.htm

Paid roles that help develop your career

We recently posted about paid roles helping deliver ‘The National Citizen Service’ the UK based version of the International Citizen Service (blogged about regularly on these pages).  While the National programme itself is for 16 and 17 year olds there are PAID opportunities available in the summer of 2015 to help deliver the UK programme.  This could be working as a mentor, running workshops on different areas of expertise or helping at outward bound projects. 

The Challenge Network are looking for 3,500 paid staff to work on the programme. This is a fantastic opportunity to work in a growing, vibrant organisation, alongside groups of young people, motivating and leading them to strengthen their communities. It would provide valuable and tangible hands on experience to anyone interested in a career in policy, charities, NGOs, social enterprise or government.

Applications are now open so please be sure to check out their website and JobOnline and apply ASAP.

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We spoke to one of our colleagues in Queen Mary’s Careers & Enterprise Centre, Lucy Smith who worked as a senior mentor with The Challenge Network in the summer before joining us as an event manager.

Lucy, what was the senior mentor work?  The government is funding a programme called National Citizen Service aimed at encouraging 16 / 17 year olds to engage in social action projects.  It ticks lots of boxes about community cohesion and getting young people engaged.  The project also includes funding for people like university students to get paid work helping the groups of young people create and deliver the social action projects.

What do the projects consist of?  Senior Mentors will be engaged over a period of around three months.  An induction weekend where we get trained as team leaders; two 5 day residential periods with the young people that combines team bonding through fun outward bound type activities and classroom work covering topics like ‘community engagement’, ‘social action’ and confidence building.  By the end of these residential periods the groups should have clarity about what they want the project to deliver and the rest of time is working with them in the community ensuring they deliver the project.

Why did you do it?  Well I had just finished my degree at St Andrews and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. The project was a good way of doing something constructive, get paid for it and establish myself back in London.  In the end it was much more than that in many ways.

Running classes sounds like it might be challenging. What was your experience of it?  A lot of the lessons are already pre-written and you have all the material you need.  Sure you have to be able to get on with young people but really getting them to talk about what they like and dislike about their communities isn’t that difficult. Getting them to be inspired to create a project is a challenge but again it wasn’t that difficult.

What did your group decide to do? Well I, and they, wanted something that would make a difference and be exciting to do (our target group was very young children in the community.)  We wanted to raise over a £1000 that would be donated for a disabled children’s charity operating in our local community.  The exciting part was we decided to raise the money with a sponsored row down the river Thames.  Like many of the outward bound things in the residential weekend though we had professional support.  The adventure group we hired were really safety conscious but, at the same time, it really felt like an adventure in a way that doing a cake bake sale wouldn’t have been.  On the day itself we had loads of press in attendance and were blessed with great weather.  It was certainly something the young people will remember.  In fact the project as a whole has been recognised as one of the top three projects in the country

What was challenging about being involved? Well during the period after the residential you don’t have a particular base but this is the time when the students have to get into action.  So it was a lot of work getting them together and keeping them on track and inspired to ensure they delivered the project.  Ideally you are trying to ensure they take on the responsibility for the project but in reality as a team leader I was taking a lot of the responsibility – I was ambitious for the project myself really.

What did you get out of it?  Well in the end the project itself was great and we had a terrific day on the Thames.  I was also aware that I had a really constructive summer that added to my CV.  I can imagine that hanging around being an unemployed graduate wouldn’t have done my confidence much good.  Instead of which it confirmed for me that I had good organisation skills, could project manage, be good with money and get acknowledged for it.  One thing that took me a little by surprise is that I found I could inspire people.  I would really recommend to any graduate who isn’t sure of their next step, to join the NCS movement for the summer. It was a brilliant experience and prepared me for my next career move.

Educating the East End: Getting into Teaching

This post, written by Becky Hipkiss, recently featured on the QMUL School of English and Drama’s blog.

‘You know that moment when someone asks you what you’re studying at uni, and you reply “English” and they immediately say “Ohhh so you want to be a teacher then?”. It physically pains me to do so every single time, but I am that person who replies “yes, I actually want to be a teacher”.

I always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was tiny and used to force my sister to play school with me and fill in scrawled, home-made worksheets which I then proceeded to fill with big fat ticks. The ambition faltered slightly in my college years as I imagined being a high-powering publisher, just like Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. That was the dream. Even if it was just for the tight skirts, tall heels and perfectly groomed eyebrows. Then I rediscovered it again this year when I got offered the job of being a classroom tutor at a local high school.

It’s brilliant. Busy, but brilliant. I spend every morning working in classes of year 10s and 11s, usually one-to-one with students that need extra support. The teachers whose classrooms I support, support me in return in my PGCE application, offering to let me plan and teach my own lessons and ask any questions I may have about what teaching a classroom full of hormonal teenagers entails. Working in an East End secondary school is definitely an experience, with rich, multi-cultural diversity being its unique, and most fabulous, focal point. The kids I work with aren’t what I thought they’d be like at all – they have the ‘don’t-care’ attitudes we all had at 15 years old, but they’re bright, respectful young adults and it’s literally like being in a constant episode of Educating the East End. 

I’ve recently just been offered a place at the University of Manchester to study for my Secondary English PGCE come September 2015, so I thought I’d give my version of 5 top tips to applying for teacher training:

1. Get some experience before you apply.

Applications open around the end of October and the minimum most institutions ask for is one week within a classroom setting, but I personally think you need a lot more – not just to hit the minimum requirements, but to actually check this is what you want to do as your career. Because teaching is a career, and it is one that I think that people should only do if they know how much work is involved: lesson plans, targets, reluctant kids, long hours, lots of responsibility etc. You need to see the good and the bad experiences in the classroom. I often have days when I love the students and we’re all engaged in a text together, and other days where I could bang all their heads together because they refuse to follow instructions.

2. A range of experience helps too.

Maybe try two different types of secondary school: an academy and a state school? A girls school and a mixed school? Every little helps when it comes to gaining an insight into the classroom. Every teacher’s classroom is different, and I love seeing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to engaging the pupils. Plus it can’t hurt to have something else to talk about on your personal statement!

3. Speaking of which: the personal statement.

The bane of your life during the month of October. Best advice my careers advisor gave to me? Make it concise. Make it relevant. And put what makes you stand out in the first paragraph. My job means I’ll have over 400 hours of classroom experience by the time my PGCE starts, but for some reason I left this rather impressive fact out until my concluding paragraph because ‘I didn’t want to seem bigheaded’. I swear the advisor has never looked more incredulous in her entire life. Trust me – put it at the beginning and grab that admissions officer’s attention.

4. Get in early. 

Places get allocated on a first come first served basis and it’s better to get that UCAS application completed and sent off before Christmas so you’re on one of the first interview assessment days. The less competition and the more places available when you’re being interviewed, the better hey?

5. Literacy and Numeracy skills tests.

According to the Department of Education “The professional skills tests for prospective teachers assess the core skills that teachers need to fulfil their professional role in schools, rather than the subject knowledge needed for teaching. This is to ensure all teachers are competent in numeracy and literacy, regardless of their specialism. All current and prospective trainee teachers must pass the skills tests in numeracy and literacy before they can be recommended for the award of qualified teacher status (QTS).” All very well and good but English degree holders? The idea of the numeracy test makes me want to cry. I practised it online and only got 50%, and as the pass mark is 63%, I definitely have some work to do. Make sure you practise your arse off, and book in advance. Most institutes set you a time limit when offering you a place in which to pass (mine’s 30th June 2015), so it’s best to get them out of the way sooner rather than later. It doesn’t help that if you fail one or the other three times, you can’t begin your PGCE until two years later. No pressure.’

My Experience Teaching English Abroad

Avenesh Mahtani is a QMUL Alumni, having graduated from the School of Business and Management in 2010. Avenesh has previously written about his experience of working and studying at the same time. In this post he tells us about his work as a teacher in Germany teaching English language and Business English to adults.

Qualifications: In addition to having a Bachelor’s Degree, it is necessary to obtain a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification. The most recognised qualification is the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), which is certified by the University of Cambridge. This course is offered by colleges globally and can be completed as a 4-week full-time course. The CELTA is a very intensive course that helps those with little/no teaching experience gain an introductory teaching qualification. The CELTA helps new teachers prepare by getting them to teach students on a regular basis throughout the 4-week programme, where trainee teachers are monitored by qualified trainers, who then provide feedback. The CELTA is assessed through 10 observed lessons and 4 assignments, which focus on grammar, vocabulary and methodology.

The Bachelors: I have been able to build on my CELTA with my Bachelors in Business Management. As many students desire learning Business English along with the English language, the degree I obtained from Queen Mary has proved to be valuable, as it has allowed me to teach various business topics, such as Marketing, Human Resources and Finance, which are often very popular topics among those learning English for their jobs.

Living & Teaching Abroad: For many, the CELTA is a passport to the world. Having studied German at school and university, I recommend learning at least the basics of a foreign language before moving abroad. Although I am not required to speak German as all the teaching is done in English, it is helpful to know your host country’s language to get through the daily challenges of life. Teaching English as a lingua franca i.e. a common language between non-native speakers has become a big business and there is a big demand for native English speakers globally. In Germany, the majority of my students learn English for their jobs, with education and travel being the other two main reasons. My students hail from various backgrounds, which has allowed me to meet so many diverse people, some of whom have become friends upon completion of their courses.

Skills Development: Teaching helps develop a variety of useful skills, including presenting, public speaking, people management, leadership and motivation. A key part of the job is being able to motivate your students when they feel they are not making progress. Being able to encourage them to meet their goals is an important part of the job and can help one improve problem-solving skills, while forcing you to think on your feet. Additionally, having been the senior teacher at the school for some time, I was able to train and develop new teachers, which helped me become a better teacher.

Having spent a large part of my 20s teaching, it is a great experience. It is one that I can recommend to those looking to develop their skills and like working with diverse people. Although it is not the best paid job, it does provide a great sense of job satisfaction seeing students achieve their goals, knowing you have played a part in that and those are memories and experiences that will remain for a lifetime. Add on the skills development and acquisition of a foreign language, it is a job that is definitely worth experiencing.