The topic of the week is Sarah Simons – FE, CPD and bonhomie.
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We were delighted to welcome Sarah Simons onto the podcast this week to share her views on Higher Education in the UK.
We learned that Sarah has a fascinating background, beginning when she was newly out of college and landed a part in the UK soap opera, Coronation Street. She held that role for about a year and then turned to writing. She had a sitcom made by the BBC and spent the next 17 years in the world of showbiz. After having her son, she was persuaded by a friend to try FE lecturing. She was immediately hooked by the chance to work with students, some of whom were overcoming serious problems in their lives to turn up at college and learn. Sarah realised she could do something to make a difference through working in Further Education.
After a couple of years, Sarah contacted the Times Educational Supplement (TES) and asked if she could write for the paper. She has been a columnist and a podcaster ever since.
Her latest venture, however is #UKFEchat, which started, by accident, as a Twitter hashtag and has now grown into an exciting set of projects run by FE people, sharing good practice and helping each other.
Pivotal Education in FE
Paul points out that 50% of Pivotal’s work is in Further Education in the UK. Despite the common misconception, there is plenty of need for behaviour training in FE.
Sarah agrees and says that the issues in FE Colleges are similar to schools. There is a lingering belief amongst FE student who have just come from schools that the fact they are in a new environment means they are now ‘adults’ and can’t be told what to do. In fact, Sarah says, the rebellious feelings don’t go away at all and she classes herself as ‘disruptive’ in some CPD sessions!
Behaviour management with adults in FE
Even with adult learners in FE, Sarah believes the usual behaviour management strategies have a place. She mentions consistency, routine, the security that predictability brings and sanctions and rewards.
Paul and Sarah agree that even some basic primary school behaviour management techniques can work just as well with adults. Sarah recalls that, when she was new to FE teaching, she now realises that she was ‘playing the role of a teacher’ – she wasn’t treating the students as individuals and she feels they really suffered as a result. She experienced a behaviour management session from Paul quite early on and says that rewards, sanctions and predictability all work brilliantly but being kind is also crucial.
Sarah describes her current functional skills work with a group of plumbers. She found herself counting – “You have until 5 to be quiet – 1-2-3-4-5”. She was mortified but the technique work and her relationship with the class is excellent.
Sarah describes homework as ‘her new thing’. She points out that you may see over 250 students in a week in a role like hers in FE so managing homework is not necessarily going to work in the same way it can in a school setting.
In the first week she set homework to the group, 2 of them brought it back. She said to the others that they should call these two ‘boss’ because that’s what they would be doing in the future!
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