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Teaching Vocational Subjects

Hi my name is Becky. I studied Information Management and Business studies at Loughborough University. I started my teacher training course with the University of East London in 2012 where I trained as a teacher of ICT. I worked in 2 completely different East London Schools, both gave me a wealth of knowledge and experience. My second placement proved to be the BEST (not that I'm biased or anything) getting to work with the then Miss Chamberlain, who is now the awesome Mrs Trickey (AKA Yoda) giving you the advice you receive today. She taught me everything I know and more from the highest highs to the lowest lows of the profession and how to manage all situations. Whilst training with the amazing Mrs Trickey I learnt the most important part of the job is communication with staff and students. I remember observing one of Mrs Trickey's classes I was taking on, a Year 10 class filled with the biggest characters in the school and knew it was important that teaching and learning needed to be fun. Mrs Trickey had them eating out of the palm of her hands and this was because they trusted her and she got to know each and every one of them both their general likes and dislikes as well as their learning needs. Within 5 minutes of my observation I had learnt the names and predicated grades of all the students in the class. This was the lightbulb moment that proved to me this was the job for me!  Once I qualified I worked at an all-girls school in North West London for 3 years, followed by a career break in publishing, recruitment and even took up a short course personal training course to fill my time before I realised my passion really was working in education and started working at a Religious school in North West London. Whilst at my most recent school I was promoted to Head of Vocational Business where I have turned the Vocational Business Studies course into the most successful vocational course in the school where year on year, I achieve the best results with the most challenging of students, some of which get into Russell Group Universities with their amazing results.

I write resources for vocational subjects, mainly Business Studies and you can find them at my TES shop:

I can only describe vocational teaching as teaching that really makes a difference. Many teachers will moan and groan about teaching vocational courses and I won't lie (NGL- not gonna lie - student lingo if we're being cool) it's hard work! The marking is relentless and the students can be a challenge, but this is what makes vocational teaching the most rewarding experience and the best thing about teaching for me! 

Vocational teaching combines both examination papers and coursework; it enables students to learn important writing skills alongside the opportunity of developing practical skills, which support their long-term career choices. Vocational courses work by enabling students to receive both supports in and out of the classrooms as well as re-sit opportunities. Vocational teaching is great it gives you an excuse to go on school trips (which may not be as flexible now due to the current climate) and also gives you the chance to get guest speakers and outside organisations to support with experience and teaching, something students find so valuable. Vocational teaching is sociable teaching, you end up working alongside other departments in the school to beg, borrow and steal resources as well as learn valuable lessons about their subject areas and the restrictions they face. 

Vocational teaching is based on assignment briefs and criteria. Exam boards such as BTEC and Cambridge Technicals provide these or you can write/ adapt your own. Students love these as it means they are fully involved and invested in their course, it also means us as teachers get to talk about whatever we want (I make a point of focussing my case studies and assignment briefs about food establishments to engage students from the outset!). 

The courses run on a different schedule to GCSEs and A-Levels. Exams are sat in January and May; this makes teaching and planning easy as you can control the discipline that students are using. I tend to focus on exam techniques and writing first and this supports coursework when you start it in the January. When it comes to coursework, the work is taught using theory teaching and also gets students to engage with specifications and criteria. These courses are not graded in the usual way, you spend a lot of time talking about P's (Passes - D/E), M's (Merits- C/B), D's (Distinctions-B/A) and D*'s (Distinction Stars - A/A*). Students quickly learn and set their goals in line with their targets or they try to exceed their targets. The combination of exams, coursework and re-sits/ resubmissions makes goals more realistic and achievable for these students, which then encourages them to work hard and achieve the best they can. Sometimes these grades are grades even they do not feel are possible at the beginning of the course. When teaching the coursework, you are not on your own. The exam provides courses, some of which are free, the opportunity to network with other schools that also run the same course. They help prepare you as well as teach you the marking and complexities of the course. The exam board also provide the school with 2 moderation dates for your subject. You get to speak to your moderator before, during and after the moderation process where they advise, check your marking and also provide feedback on the work that both you and your students do. They are forgiving and if you are lucky very supportive especially when you start a new course. A handy tip, when your moderator comes to visit don’t shove them in the deepest darkest part of the school, make sure they feel valued and make an effort to host them with tea/ coffee, biscuits and cakes, it doesn’t help them assess your work but makes them easier to work with and the moderation process a little less stressful!

The type of students you will come across are those that are not always the most academically able and can be challenging BUT they are the students you can see the most change and positive impact on at the end of the course you teach. These students learn to love and hate you; you become their best friend and their worst nightmare all rolled into one (this is also the case with their parents too!). You spend a lot of time with these students and at the end of the 2-year course are the most appreciative when they get their results and get onto the A-Level course or the University of their choice. Vocational teaching is a discipline. You use skills you've learnt in teacher training; deadlines, banter, communication as well as negotiation. The students you teach on these courses not only develop their skills but also help you develop you as a teacher, a valuable lesson you cannot always learn teaching general academic courses. 

If you get to your school and are given a vocational class to teach don't see it as a hindrance see it as an opportunity! An opportunity to have a positive impact on the most appreciative students but also the opportunity to discover who you are as a teacher a lot quicker and in a much more interesting way. 

Good luck with your placements and new schools and remember to enjoy and embrace every moment you can in this very demanding yet rewarding career you have chosen!

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