Further Forces: Ben Smith

Further Forces
Further Forces

Which area of Public Services do you teach in?

I teach BTEC National Uniformed Public Services and Military Preparation Level 3.

What age group and courses do you teach?

All the students are 16+, but in a typical class the ages range from 16–18 years of age. An example of the types of units I teach on the course are; Command and Control in the Uniformed Public Services, Police Powers in the Uniformed Public Services, Health and Lifestyle, Fitness Testing and Training, Citizenship, Diversity and the Public Services, and Understanding the impact of War, Conflict and Terrorism on Public Services.

Where is your army base and were you ever based abroad?

My last few years in the Army were with 26 Engineer Regiment, based at Perham Down, Hampshire. I spent the first six years of my career based overseas in Germany and I’ve also served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do you find your background in the army makes a difference to students’ attitudes towards you?

Without a doubt. I find it’s the only time the students are silent – when they’re listening to my experiences in the military! They’re all genuinely interested to hear about someone who has actually lived through a lot of the case studies that are in the textbooks in front of them. Students genuinely show you respect, especially when you can use a good, worthwhile anecdote that can captivate them.

In particular, does your background seem to make a difference to how they perceive you?

I was lucky enough to come from a background that has allowed me to work with all the other uniformed public services. The students think of me as a font of all knowledge – even if I’m not, I’ll always find an answer for them.

How do your experience, skills and knowledge from your time in the armed services inform and enhance your teaching? Does it give you an advantage?

Yes, especially coming from a background with such a strong command and control structure. It’s allowed me to easily take control of a class, but also have the respect of the students at the same time. Some of my non-military colleagues find this harder to do. My experiences in the Army certainly enhance lessons – one unit case study in particular looks at the role of the public services during the 2009 Cumbrian floods. I was lucky enough to be part of the Royal Engineers team that built the bridge in Workington at the time. First hand intimate knowledge like that can really bring a subject to life for students.

What do you like about teaching in Further Education – would you describe it as rewarding?

I have some students who are really driven and know exactly what they want to do for their future careers. On the other hand, I have some who don’t have a clue – If what I teach can help them decide what to do in life, then yes, I’ll find teaching in FE rewarding. Even the driven students; if I can help them confirm that their chosen career path is right for them, I’ll be equally as pleased.

Why did you choose to teach in Further Education in particular?

Teaching the FE age group (16+) appealed to me more than secondary or primary age groups. I felt the types of specialisations available in the FE sector, i.e. Engineering and Public Services, really suited my skill set gained in the military, more so than the core subjects of maths, English or a science.

In particular, why is it important to teach/train young people in Public Services?

I think the course content allows students to become much more rounded individuals. It’s not just about learning what the public services do, it’s also about becoming a better citizen and learning about things such as diversity, politics and how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Would you recommend other service leavers to become teachers in FE?

Yes, most definitely and I have done already. The knowledge and skills we pick up in the military are hugely transferable into the FE sector.

What did Further Forces do to help you enter teaching as a profession?

I had thought about going into teaching as I left the forces, but always thought my lack of qualifications (maths and English especially) would hold me back. The Further Forces Programme has helped me realise that wasn’t the case and that there are many teaching roles available to me. My tutor took the time to chat to me, before I enrolled, to fully explain how my skills would easily transfer into the role of an FE teacher. The support I’ve been given from the programme with my online learning and assignments has been excellent – it’s good to know that the support is there when I need it.

Would you recommend Further Forces to other Service Leavers?

Most definitely.

More information can be found on our Further Forces page.