Reflections of an English teacher

in a vocational setting

Written by Rachel Newton, Teaching and Learning Coach at Myerscough College.

I was reflecting on the self-posed question “what really works for me as an English teacher in a vocational setting” in order to improve my own planning and keep it fresh. Once I had written my list, I thought it might be something worth sharing as it was surprisingly concise yet comprehensive!

  • Shifting mindset early on is vital– letting go of previous negative experiences and focusing on the future- I often do a full mindset lesson where I will ask learners to write down their experiences and opinions of English on one page and on another how they see English benefitting them and their career goals. I also encourage them to write a vivid description of them opening their results envelope to see the grade 4/5/6 + including how this feels. I then ask the learners to cross out the past and focus on this new future- I have had several different responses to this, some overwhelmingly positive with real emotion shared.
  • Building rapport and getting to know your learners– by this I mean finding out their interests, thinking about what they want, how they want to get there and use this as a motivational tool/resource to base your lessons around.
  • Remember that learners at the college are often here because they are more practical and enjoy being hands on– try and break up the SOW with elements of this where possible- a walk followed by writing up a creative writing piece on the 5 senses for example.
  • Focus on learner’s strengths and interests (vocational embedding)- if you are showing learners where the English is used in their industry, they are more likely to engage- make regular contact with the vocational tutors to see where you can link with their delivery.
  • Each lesson should focus on an English skill– this can be an exam skill but must develop their ability to do it, not just how to answer an exam question
  • Praise is vital- I have “won over” reluctant learners by saying something as simple as “wow creative writing is really your forte, you have a natural ability, keep it up”. I had one learner who I had a similar conversation to this with email me last year to tell me he is now a writer for a living, and my belief in him was what changed his path.
  • Support Long term memory– Finding ways to simplify, create acronyms and mnemonics (that work)- allow learners to create their own as this will ensure it works for them
  • Allow learners to track their own progress – creating a resource with the assessment objectives for learners to use: self-assessing/completing after in-class assessments which shows them the progress they are making, motivates them and allows them to set personal targets.
  • Show your own passion– being passionate about your own subject instils the belief that English is important, important enough for you to want to devote your career to it!

Rachel Newton


Thank you for reading, if you have anything you would add to the list please do get in touch, I would love to collaborate with you.