TeachInFE’s Talking to Teachers: Ava, Adult English Teacher

Ava Lux and Adult Education Team

 

Ava Lux works as an Adult English Teacher as part of the Community and Work Based Learning Team at Salford City College. Having gained her teaching qualifications as an adult, she discusses becoming a teacher whilst raising a family and explains why adult education is so important.

TeachInFE understands that for many people the idea of re-entering education or becoming a teacher at a later age, can be a daunting, but exciting prospect. To give you an idea of what this can involve, we spoke to Ava Lux, an Adult English Teacher in the Community and Work Based Learning Team at Salford City College. Having trained as a teacher later in life, and now working within adult education, she understands the difficulties facing adults who want to retrain but also recognises the importance of them doing so. We spoke to Ava about gaining teaching qualifications as an adult, why she chose to teach adults and why adult education is so important.

How did you start teaching in Further Education?

English had always been my favourite subject and I gained an English degree at university but, for some reason, I could never see myself teaching in a school. So, I ended up in retail management, but after I had my kids I decided to change careers. Initially, I enrolled on a local course to train volunteers to teach adults to read. I really loved it, and this lead to part time paid teaching work. I went on to take my PGCE whilst working. This was just before the government launched the Skills for Life Agenda in about 2001 which was a huge push to get adults to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. It became a requirement for adult literacy teachers to have a specialist literacy qualification, which I gained, and then studied to be a dyslexia specialist. So it was a lot of studying whilst working, which was not easy with young children.


What is your favourite thing about working in FE?

I have enjoyed teaching a wide range of courses during my teaching career in FE. I have been in FE for about 20 years and at Salford City College for over 12 years now. I have had various roles over the years and taught English at every level, from beginner readers to English GCSE as well as ESOL, creative writing and literacy training for teachers and volunteers.

I am now part of the Community & Work Based Learning Team and currently teach English Functional Skills. We have some great community venues, in places like Little Hulton, Broughton and Eccles and this encourages people who have been out of education for a long time to take their first steps back in to learning.

English and maths qualifications are required for most jobs now and are the first stage to further study or apprenticeships. Many of my students want to go into nursing, become teaching assistants or are taking the first step to going to university. I really enjoy seeing them gain in confidence, achieve their first qualifications and go on to do something they really want to do. One of my very favourite things is when the exam results come in and I can tell them they have passed!


You teach adult education, why did you choose to work with adults instead of typical College students?

I enjoyed working with adults, helping people who were coming back into education after a long time to improve their English skills. Having changed career paths myself, I understood how difficult it was to go back to studying, especially with a young family.  Also, as part of the community team, I’m out and about a lot, in community venues not just on campus, which can be more varied.


Are there any key differences between working in adult education compared to teaching children in a school?

My daughter is now a primary school teacher (that makes me sound very old!)  and we often compare our jobs. We share ideas with each other but obviously teaching adults is very different to teaching children. She has to deal with lots of behavioural issues, be involved in the life of the school and deal with parents. But I also have to support my students. They come back to studying with many different issues, reasons why they have not achieved at school and problems in their everyday lives that affect their ability to study.


Do you have to alter your approach at all when teaching adults?

Sometimes adults come to college thinking it will be just like school. Many did not enjoy English at school and think it will be the same at college. I need to persuade them it is not the same and that they are able to achieve a qualification. Also, for English Functional Skills (Level 2) you need to take 2 exams and give a presentation, so that’s a lot of assessments to cram in and no one likes doing the presentation! I have to encourage a lot of reluctant learners that they are able to do this. The most crucial aspect of teaching adults is helping them to build up their confidence. It’s also more informal than teaching kids. It’s important to establish a rapport, have a laugh with your students and ensure that they actually enjoy coming to class.


Why is adult education so important?

Parts of Salford have been identified as having severe levels of deprivation, with some of the lowest levels of literacy for adults in the UK, therefore it’s vital that we are able to continue to meet this need. As I mentioned, when I first started teaching adults, literacy and numeracy were a government priority. Now, as in many areas, funding has been cut and the number of classes we are able to offer has shrunk. Many people do not know what they want to do after they leave school and for many reasons don’t fulfil their potential when they are younger. If we want people to be able to do this then we must provide them with the opportunities to gain the qualifications they need later on, when they are ready. That’s why adult education is so important.


Are there any challenges when teaching in FE and how do you overcome them?

Teaching in FE, you are responsible for managing every aspect of the course not just the teaching. My courses are only 18 weeks long and there’s a lot to cram in and just as with teaching in a school, there is always training to attend, marking to do, searching for or making resources, not to mention fretting about lesson observations or OFSTED visits.

Over the years, I have become more organised, developed my own resources and know what works in class and what doesn’t. Being part of a great little team also helps overcome many issues. This includes Kate, who runs our Little Hulton Centre brilliantly and also Danielle, maths teacher, and Julie and Christine, IT teachers. We keep each other sane!


What advice would you give to those people thinking of working in FE or to those considering teaching adult education?

If you have a passion for your subject and enjoy helping people fulfil their potential then it’s the job for you.

 

If Ava’s story has inspired you to get involved with Further Education, why not explore our latest vacancies within FE. We have a wide range of teaching opportunities across the UK that could be perfect for you. Click here to find out more

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