- Posted by: Educators Wales
Lecturer in Sport (Course Lead Outdoor Activities) at Coleg Sir Gar
How did you get into education?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to work in education – I knew I wanted to work with people, as when I was younger, I used to do a lot of sports coaching. I decided to study Sport Science at university because I loved P.E at school. During university I had lots of opportunities to work with young people through coaching and it sparked an interest in me to become a teacher.
Then I applied for a PGCE and when I started, I thought it was the perfect fit for me. I’m a real people person so it ticked a lot of boxes.
I’ve been working in education now for 19 years, but this is only my third year working in Further Education. Before this, I worked as P.E teacher in a Secondary School. I made the switch because as time passed, I realised I enjoyed working with older age groups, and so I began looking for a new opportunity, which is why I decided to apply for the role at the college and I’ve never looked back.
What’s the best bit about your job?
My favourite part of teaching is engaging and working with students. It’s something I’m really missing right now. There’s nothing better than when your students get that ‘lightbulb moment’ – where you’re saying something to a student over and over again and they aren’t understanding it and then you explain it again and they finally get it. Honestly, I just get such a buzz from that. I love seeing a student’s face light up because they finally get it. It’s such a rewarding feeling.
What motivates you to get out of bed every day to go to work?
The fact I know that at some point in the day I’ll laugh. Every day there’s a laugh, every day there’s frustration, every day something happens whether it’s a student saying thank you or experiencing something for the first time, like kayaking. As it’s such an interactive job, I don’t know what’s going to happen when I wake up in the morning – and I love that.
What does a normal day at work look like?
Every day is different when you work in education. For me, a normal pre-COVID day could be anything from lecturing all day, to being on the water teaching kayaking techniques or on a mountain doing navigation work with students. Some of my days I’d be in a classroom, teaching theory and others I’m out and about doing practical work. I love the variety of it. I couldn’t do an office job where I work 9-5 – I’ve got too much energy, too much bounce in me. I need to be moving, talking, interacting and engaging all the time and teaching really lets me do that.
How have you adapted to remote learning since the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are certain things about teaching online that are great – my pupils don’t need to travel for an hour and a half on a bus to get to college and back, so it opens up a lot of flexibility for students.
I think asynchronous learning has allowed more educators to play around with technology to improve the standard of their teaching. I’ve started to do voice recordings when I’m marking – so when I have comments for my students, I can do a voice recording and give them verbal feedback. It’s a lot quicker for me and students seem to really like it, so it’s a win-win situation.
On the other side, there have been challenges. The course I teach is extremely practical, so it has been difficult to adjust to the amount of screen time that they are having at the moment. We’re having to get a bit inventive - last week my students came to their lesson dressed in their walking clothes and had to talk through what they were wearing and why. We’ve been learning to tie knots using extension cables and skipping ropes instead of ropes. But it is challenging. I think my students miss being outside, they miss the physicality of the course and they miss seeing each other, and so do I.
Can you tell me about a time where you feel like you’ve really made a difference at work?
I think every day you make little differences. For me, it’s not about the major differences that you make – it’s about all the smaller differences that you make to students, that are unquantifiable. It’s about being there for students and helping them reach their goals – whether that’s helping them get the job they want, or when a student exceeds their expectations and thanks you for helping them. It’s so lovely.
As we can’t see each other in person at the moment, we’re using Google Chat to keep in touch and what’s so lovely about that is that students will take photographs of what they’ve been doing and send them to the rest of the class. I had a photograph sent through the other day of a student building a climbing wall on the side of their house. They send videos of them doing things like knots and practising their climbing. It’s nice that they do that, because it shows that they know I’m actually interested in them as people – they know we have a good relationship and that I care.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about working in education?
Go and do some work experience – find out what working in education is all about. Explore different areas of education and get work experience in all the different sectors, from primary and secondary school teaching to Youth Work. It’ll help you find out where your strengths lie and will be invaluable.