|Head of Humanities and Social Sciences|
|Further Education College|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Head of Humanities and Social Sciences in the United Kingdom
What I do
I teach in FE and also manage a large department of tutors who teach A level, Access to HE and BTEC across a range of humanities and social sciences subjects.
Skills I use and how I developed them
Creativity - finding different ways to make the same information understandable to the diverse range of students I have in my classes - developed through practice, reading education theory, the PGCE and talking to colleagues.
Time management and prioritisation - my role is a busy one, so I have to carefully manage my time and be prepared to ask for help if I need it. I never stopped when I was at university, so I developed this skill trying to balance my studies, paid work and extracurricular activities.
People skills - from dealing with a student who hasn't handed in homework, a disclosure of a safe guarding incident or issues with staff, developing these skills is vital. This wasn't training that I got in my PGCE, so you have to speak to colleagues, ask for training and be reflective. A lot of this boils down to experience - and you will make mistakes to start with, but by reflecting on what happened and why, you can learn from it and move on.
What I like most
The challenging and busy nature of the work - there is a rhythm to the year, but every day is different and so I need to be able to think fast, be flexible and problem solve in all aspects of my work. When I am teaching, I most enjoy the moment when students 'get it' and I love the enthusiasm of my students in the classroom.
What I like least
The nature of the work is that there are pressure points in the year where busy tips over into ridiculously busy, so it would be nice if the work was more evenly spread across the year!
What surprised me most
In terms of my teaching, what surprised me most was that I am actually quite good at it. My students do well and get good value added scores and I really enjoy it. In terms of managing, there weren't really any surprises, as I had worked in FE for about 7 years before being promoted. I did discover the importance, as an introvert, of making sure that I find time to be away from people for half an hour or so to recharge - it makes me feel much less frazzled and therefore I make better decisions.
My career goals when I graduated
Get a job in archaeology and take a break from education
My career history
Field archaeologist for 18 months, followed by a short spell of unemployment and then some zooarchaeology and finds work. Trained to be a teacher whilst doing evening classes with adults and key skills communication with 16-18 year olds. My archaeology teaching was a 0.5FTE contract for a number of years, before I started to teach Ancient History too and then moved into management (which resulted in a full time role when combined with the teaching).
What has helped my career to progress
Being open to and willing to take opportunities when they arise. Being prepared to do things out of my comfort zone and because it's the right thing to do. Asking for advice from more experienced colleagues and thinking about their experiences. If you ask enough people, you get an awful lot of viewpoints which can really help you to see other people's perspectives. Loving learning!
My advice to students considering work
Take all the opportunities to gain experience that you can get and really think about the skills that you have developed that are relevant to your industry and your employer. Don't sell yourself short!
My advice about working in my industry
That thing about teachers getting long breaks? It's a myth (in FE at any rate!) Be prepared to work long hours, but finding ways to work smarter, not harder will mean that you can reduce the time you are spending working out of the classroom. Ask your colleagues - they've been doing it for years, but be prepared to experiment - just because it works for one person, doesn't mean it will work for another. The same holds true with classes - something that worked really well with one class can fall completely flat with another. Reflect on it and learn from it.
To get onto a teacher training course, you need to demonstrate that you have done some work experience (and there's a good reason for that!), but make sure that you get experience from as many different types of education provider and across as many different types of courses as possible. You need to have a really good idea of whether education is the right career path for you, and what kind of education is right for you (I'd be rubbish with primary age children). Look at a variety of websites to find jobs - employers, TES, FE Jobs, AoC, etc.
Keep in touch with where you do your placement - they know you now and might be able to offer you some hours. You'll also have a good idea of what the ethos of the place is and whether you really want to work there. Don't turn down a part time contract because you are waiting for a full time one to come along. You might be lucky, but if not, take the part time contract and get some experience so when a full time contract is advertised, you are in a good position to get it.
Don't try and cram too much into a micro teach (it's a micro teach, not a full lesson crammed into 20 minutes). The students won't know you and everything seems to take three times longer than you planned for it to do. Definitely don't do anything that could go horribly wrong, eg a complicated experiment that requires naked flame, jets of water, etc. And make sure that you have a back up plan in case it all goes wrong and the technology fails.
When you do get a job, ask for help when you need it. If you are feeling overloaded, your line manager needs to know about it, so they can work with you to do something about it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness!
Look at the job that you are applying for and carefully consider whether it's right for you. We occasionally have part time contracts for a few hours a week advertised. Are you really prepared to move half way across the country for 3 hours a week teaching? If you are, that's great. If not, save your effort for when a job that is doable comes up. You don't have to apply for everything you see.
Look at the person spec for the job and how relevant bits are being assessed so you know what you have to talk about on your application form. Ensure that your application clearly demonstrates how you meet the criteria, otherwise you won't get past the shortlisting stage.
Proof read your application form. I'm sure it's said with boring regularity, but it really does matter, especially in education - don't give an employer the opportunity to form a bad first impression.
Speaking of which, when you do get an interview, make sure that you are punctual and well presented. Tardiness is not a quality that is going to endear you to education professionals! They want to know that you are going to turn up on time to teach. If you are going into teaching at 22, you will occasionally get mistaken for a student, so not dressing like one is a good thing...
When you go into the interview, pay attention to your body language. Coming across as over-confident never goes down well - you need to aim for quietly confident that you can do the job and you need to make me believe it as well. Think about who you sit opposite on the panel. Aim for sitting opposite the chairperson. Don't sit opposite the only man in the room (if they are not the chair), especially when the principal has already introduced herself...
Think about the level of detail that you are giving in your answers to the questions - is it too much or too little? Don't sell yourself short, but don't waffle either - don't introduce the thought into my mind that this is what you might be like in the classroom!
(All of the opinions expressed throughout this whole profile are mine and not those of my employer. I have concentrated mainly on getting into teaching rather than leading and managing, as the more traditional route is teaching first, managing later).
Working in FE (teaching and managerial), teaching 16-19 year olds, working with adult learners - things along those general lines.
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