Why did you decide to train to teach?
I decided that I needed more fulfilment than I was getting being a research chemist at Merck Sharpe and Dohme. King Edward VII School in Sheffield is a comprehensive school in the fullest sense of the word. Students of the school speak almost 60 languages between them and hale from every post code in Sheffield, which creates a very diverse atmosphere. I must like it because I’ve stayed here for over 21 years, holding positions as head of year and head of chemistry.
What do you love most about teaching and what keeps you motivated?
It sounds rather glib but the kick that one gets when the penny drops with a kid is great. I also have a suspicion that some teachers enjoy the thrill and adrenaline of being on stage. It can be terrifying, exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. Personally, I like to try to deliver my chemistry through the medium of humour. When kids are happy, they become so receptive to learning facts and concepts. I want my students to not feel threatened or intimidated, even when the material is very challenging, and a bit of laughter really helps.
What advice would you give someone thinking about training to be a chemistry/science teacher?
Go for it! If you love chemistry and you like working with kids, it’s a great career. Sure, it’s tiring and at times, frustrating, but the many rewards outweigh this for most teachers. I would never advise anybody to go into it without serious consideration. A decent salary, job security and long holidays should not be high on the list of reasons to consider teaching as a career; these factors alone can’t sustain one through the tough times, which there will inevitably be.