I feel proud that I've had the courage to change career

Vanessa_Watts_-_Secondary_Teaching

"Having my daughter made me rethink what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, where my priorities lay and to obtain a more manageable work/home life balance," said Vanessa, a former media account manager who studied the BSc (Hons) Secondary Design & Technology with QTS, and is now a Product Design teacher at John Cabot Academy in Bristol.

"I started to look in to career changes. I enjoyed the training side of my sales role and also the freedom of not simply sitting behind a desk. As I was the only child in my family not to attend University, I always felt that I had sold myself short by not having this experience, so I started to look into courses in the surrounding areas.  

It was then that I came across USW and their teacher training courses. Since I did not hold any UCAS points, I had to enrol onto the Certificate of Higher Education: Introduction to Secondary Teaching Course course initially.  

I had enjoyed discussion-based training in my job, so leaned towards Secondary School teaching, as opposed to Primary. I also felt that being a mature student with over 20 years’ of adult life experience, I would be a good mentor for this age group.

Course content

The academic content of the  teacher training course is very varied.  It consists of a large amount of practical work mixed with written assignments and end of year exams.  Modules have covered Food Technology, Electronics, Product Design, Resistant Materials, Textiles and Education Studies. I very much enjoy being in the workshop. It is this module that I have found to be the most useful in practice as it is not something I studied at school so my skills were initially very raw but now I have the confidence to lead a class of 20+ students safely within a workshop environment just as well as in a kitchen.

The Education module holds such a lot of relevant material that I have used in both of my school placements. Topics such as Special Educational Needs, Behaviour Management, Lesson Planning, Assessment for Learning and English as an Additional Language have been studied in depth, all of which prepared me for placement.

Placements

My first placement was within my home town and whilst there was a degree of demographic differentiation within the learners at the school, it was small. However, the second placement in Newport held a vast demographic differentiation and with this came very different behaviours and attitudes to learning from the students. The wealth of knowledge I obtained with regards to challenging behaviour, motivating learners, the range of assessing learners and differentiation has given me a very positive start in my career.

The support from both the placement schools and the University has been excellent. I felt that I was able to discuss anything with either my Tutors or lecturers and ask advice when required. Assistance is always available, whether worries about academic work or practical work arise. However, these have been few and far between as the initial support is designed to give you all of the information you need to succeed.

Highlights and challenges

The highlight of the course so far for me is the feeling of pride that I have attended University as a mature student and had the courage to change my career.  I have learned things that have brought me joy and discovered that I can not only design and make items that I would never have thought possible, but I can also teach those skills to a class of learners and motivate them into trying something new which in turn grows their confidence.

I suppose the biggest challenge for me, having a family, is time management. As I have worked Monday – Friday for many years, I have continued with the same work ethics at University, almost treating it like a job. The lectures are set to give you enough time to complete assignments on time without causing stress.  The key is to organise yourself and not to get distracted from your work plan.  

I wish I had done it years ago

My advice to people considering teacher training is to attend an Open Day. Research who your lecturers will be and find them, have a chat and get a general feel of what the course is like and then go for it.  

Remember, you always regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do! The only thing I wish I had have known before starting the course was how much I would enjoy it as I would have started it years ago!"