A Bricklayer talks the importance of Further Education teaching

A Bricklayer talks the importance of Further Education teaching

Bricklayer, John Ryan tells Professional Builder what he’s learned from inspiring the next generation through Further Education 

I’ve had many different jobs throughout my life but I’ve always had a passion for teaching. From my day job as a bricklayer, to working in a gym, to training people in taekwondo and even teaching Royal Welsh army cadets, I’ve always been good at sharing information. However, it wasn’t until my partner at the time spotted my talent for teaching that I first moved into assessing bricklaying. After 10 years as an assessor, I then transitioned into Further Education teaching.

I was inspired to enter teaching because of the lack of learners entering the construction field. There still seems to be a negative stigma of toxic masculinity attached to the industry, which I want to play an active role in changing. I was also inspired by another bricklaying teacher who I really admired, whose ways of teaching made me consider becoming a teacher myself and utilising the power of my existing skillset from working in construction.

As a Further Education teacher, I’ve found life skills picked up from previous occupations are transferable, and I can relate and articulate them into teaching methods to educate and inspire the next generation. Coming from a trade also means I wear both industry sector and teaching hats which aid each other to get the best results.

The most rewarding part of being a Further Education teacher is watching the change in the learners. They’re generally nervous and sheepish on their first day, and over time as they build confidence they start to open up. A highlight of teaching is seeing learners produce practical work that is constantly developing and improving over the course of their studies. Once learners have completed their qualifications, seeing the progression is really powerful.

Becoming a Further Education teacher is relatively easy, all I had to do was complete an application form, do a full-day interview and a micro-teaching test. It was a very straightforward yet comprehensive process. You don’t need an academic degree or prior teaching qualifications to get started; you can do teacher training on the job which means you can get started straight away.

Flexible working

There are plenty of opportunities to teach part-time, meaning that you can keep working in your current industry alongside teaching Further Education. I also do a lot of self-study and reading, and I’m currently doing extended learning with various online courses to further develop my teaching qualifications and improve the experience for future learners. Whilst teaching is my main career, I currently have the flexibility to teach Royal Marine cadets which also aids in my Further Education teaching.

I’d say that flair and flexibility are the most important qualities in Further Education teachers, as well as understanding the learners and being able to get on their level. When teaching I use cultural references they are aware of such as the latest music trends, fashions and news. Developing this connection, combined with the teacher training rigour, helps give a framework for teaching with the realness of keeping the learners interested by real life experience.

Digital learning

During the pandemic, I found it difficult to effectively teach bricklaying, a very hands-on profession, over the internet. Whilst I could work through the theory, I felt that it was equally important to demonstrate the practical side. To enhance the experience for those in my class, I bought a Go-Pro camera and used Microsoft Teams to demonstrate bricklaying from my garage. I filmed empty construction sites to show learners how these sites are set up, narrating the different aspects of being on site to give a better feel for it. I also produced a number of home-made videos exploring old and new construction, developing the learners’ potential to understand construction at a base level as well as understanding the tools used for bricklaying.

For anyone considering a career in teaching, my advice is to go for it and see where it takes you. It’s a great journey to start on, and you continually build and adapt to changes along with learning new skills yourself. Being a Further Education teacher is a complete cultural change from your norm; it’s a commitment to learning and the development of learners, as well as yourself. It’s a highly rewarding and positive experience for yourself and the learners. I recommend visiting the Teach in Further Education website if others want to explore teaching opportunities as you never know where the experience might lead you.

Visit Teach in further education – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) to find out how to begin teaching in Further Education. You can also contact the Teach in Further Education support service for personalised advice on how your skills could lead to opportunities within Further Education – details can be found on the website.  

If you’re interested in hearing more about the importance of further education teaching then you may also like episode 4 of the Professional Builder Podcast.

Related posts