Simon Aldcroft is a Learning Support tutor, Media teacher and Language teacher at Nottingham Trent International College. We asked him some questions about his teaching style and to give you some top tips for studying abroad.
Why did you become a teacher?
I’ve always enjoyed working with people, and teaching gives you the opportunity to work closely with people in a very rewarding way. You can help people to think differently, overcome challenges and discover what they’re capable of.
Which subjects do you teach? Why do you think they are important?
I teach Study Skills, which I think is vital for students preparing for university. Research skills are particularly important: there is so much information available to students today, so it’s a real challenge to decide what’s reliable and what isn’t. This is a key skill that we address in Study Skills.
I also teach on the Media programme, where we focus on practical skills, such as video-making. It is essential that Media students become comfortable working with digital media.
What do you think is the most important quality in a teacher?
There are so many! I guess being a good a communicator is at the heart of what we do. We need to communicate in a variety of ways and with a diverse range of people. It’s therefore important to be able to adapt to different requirements in order to communicate clearly.
How would you describe your teaching style? Are there any particular techniques you use to help your students learn?
I like doing stuff that’s fun for the students and for myself, so I try to keep it interesting and varied. I use technology, get students out of their seats, or introduce some extra motivation, such as competitions, games and rewards.
Can you give us an example of how you use technology in your classes?
I often use a tool called Realtimeboard for brainstorming and mind mapping. It’s a brilliant way for students to capture ideas, collaborate, share resources and then present their ideas. I introduced it to my Study Skills class as part of a brainstorming activity for essay questions, and they loved it!
The actual mind map appears on the screen and shows what all the students are doing. In no time, the students had developed and expanded their ideas, and enhanced their work with sources and images. I could give them live feedback, which I entered directly on to the board. The momentum and energy in the class was fantastic and their work was recorded so they could refer to it later.
Do you have any tips for students during their course?
1) Little and often is better than all at once.
There is a lot to think about when you start as an international student. Arriving in a new country, making new friends, living away from home (often for the first time). And then you have to think about essays, presentations and exams for your course. So if you focus on just doing a little bit every day it won’t seem like such a big thing anymore.
You’ll be surprised how much more relaxed this can make you feel, and it also makes it easier for you to focus on something else that’s very important…
2) Enjoy the experience!
There are so many great opportunities to meet people from different cultures, to go on trips, to explore the city you’re living in and the rest of the UK. You should definitely try to make the most of these opportunities. You won’t regret it!