Steven Coleby explains how his journey into education and training came about more by luck than destiny, along with a good dose of sheer hard work and determination.
From 2003-09 I served as an Avionics Technician on the iconic Harrier Gr7 and Gr9 aircraft at RAF Cottesmore. As part of a promotion package I was then posted to the Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE) to become an instructor.
Up until this moment I hadn’t given much thought into a career in training; however, having always been one to throw themselves into something head-first, my introduction into the education sector was no different. It was while completing the mandatory RAF Instructor training that I was struck by the bug for teaching and knew I’d inadvertently stumbled upon my ‘calling’.
How my teacher and training career has developed over the years
When I completed my RAF training I enrolled on a Certificate in Education with the University of Wolverhampton. On completion of this, and now well and truly engulfed within the training bubble, I went on to study a BA (Hons) Post Compulsory Education.
I had lengthy discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) regarding the path I should take after completing my degree. This involved making the decision about whether to enrol on a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) to obtain my Qualified Teacher Status or enrol with the Institute for Learning (IFL), of which I went for the latter.
I then went on to teach for five years at the Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE). After being identified as an ‘exceptional’ instructor by my Line Manager in my second year, I was advised to accept ‘further challenges’ which, somewhat disappointingly took me away from the classroom.
On the plus side, it gave me a terrific insight into the complexities and diverse skillset and knowledge required to understand the requirements of a Further Education (FE) setting in its entirety, where training can have the potential for catastrophe if not conducted correctly.
Skills and experience in the training and education environment
The following three years introduced me to management of training, course design aspects, Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) compliances and challenges, strict document configuration and control, training resource allocation and sourcing, staff development, CPD paths and modern learning techniques, to name a few.
After almost five years in post it was time for me to move again. Despite the best efforts of my line management to keep me within the training environment, the RAF wanted me to ‘return to trade’. Remaining in a training post was not an option and I was moved into the management of a small team of software engineers, which was ultimately my call to start looking for pastures new.
Two years later British Aerospace (BAE) offered me a position which would encompass my unique skillset for the aerospace training environment. Leaving the RAF after 15 years has been the hardest decision I've had had to make; however, frustrated that my skills and experience in the training and education environment could not be utilised by the RAF, I made the decision to leave and take on the role of Assurance Team Leader at the Aircraft Maintenance Academy.
How my career aspirations have changed over the years
My career aspirations have been modular and organic as my journey has gone on. I am a firm believer that, no matter what sector you work in, holding the status of teacher affirms one’s commitment not only to the subject or trade of which you are delivering, but shows an understanding and a desire to be true to the profession in the diverse, vast and complex world of training and education.
A large part of research which I have been involved in focused around the terminology used by training establishments in the FE Sector, and the seemingly reluctant use the word ‘teacher’, preferring usually to go with lecturer, instructor or trainer. As time goes on and my experience broadens, it seems apparent that that in any academic or education institution currently, the output – certainly the expectance of the trainer/instructor – is the same of that of a teacher.
I believe that as I was so unfamiliar with the profession at the start, it was almost impossible for me to set long-term aspirations. Now, however, after being involved not only with teaching and delivery ‘at the coal-face’, but also a plethora of positions in schools, academies and FE Sectors, further aspirations and goals are much easier to identify.
What I hope to achieve in the future
In the short term, I aim to develop my new position, help BAE obtain its Ofsted Outstanding status, and make training and apprenticeships with BAE the very best they can be. I also hope to remain as Chair of Governors for a local nursery school which is facing ongoing challenges due to the changes in Early Years funding, whilst continuing to gain as much knowledge and insight into the spectrum of education roles as possible.
Ultimately, I aim to have a full and long career with BAE and have my own training consultancy business where my experience can be used to help support training and education and governance across a variety of sectors.
Advice for those entering into the teaching and training profession
I would say there are two distinct areas to consider and prepare for. Firstly, life in the ‘classroom’ (or wherever teaching takes place) and the life surrounding your teaching. It is easy to presume that your new career in the training profession will be solely ‘teaching’. With that, of course, comes a mountain of complexity.
When it comes to teaching, these two statements have always stuck with me:
1. Remember that just because you learnt that way, doesn’t mean your students will
There is an unsurmountable quantity of literature and practice out there on how to keep lessons diverse and relevant. It is also crucial to consider the experiences of your students which may affect your lesson. In the FE sector, this is well worth considering. Take the time to look at some of the literature, but most importantly, try out new things, peer review them, and always enjoy your time with your students. If you’re not enjoying your lesson, your students certainly won’t be
2. If you think you’ve been speaking for too long, you probably have been
I would argue that teaching is not, or probably won’t be, 100 per cent of your job. In fact, from my experience, it is about 50 per cent. The rest is what they don’t really tell you about, for example: lesson planning, resource gathering, peer reviews, discovering new and diverse learning methods and considering how you can apply them to your subject(s), course work marking and so on. It is all part of the journey, and in most ways, equally as important as the time spent face-to-face with students.