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A researcher goes back to school

Updated Tuesday, 24th March 2009

As scientist Andrew Morris returns to the classroom, he considers the role of the teacher

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As well as my PhD I do work on a student project called ESMO (European Student Moon Orbiter). It’s actually something I’ve blogged about before.

The project is ticking along nicely and I’ve been consistently involved over the last two and a half years. I have even taken a stint as team leader which I have recently had to step down from to concentrate on tying up my PhD.

Every now and then the team gets asked if they can help out at an event to publicise science in some form or another. This happened last week as someone within the department was organising a school trip to coincide with british science week and they asked if one of us could pop along to talk about the project. I said yep and so yesterday I spent the morning giving a talk to about 200 science students (they ranged from Yr9 to Yr12) about the ESMO project and what our team does to keep ourselves busy.

All in all I reckon it went pretty well. I’ve given talks to school children before but this was the first time I have ‘played away’ and went to the school to give the talk. I have to admit the day before the trip I was a bit nervous as to how the talks would go. I remembered all the nightmare lessons we gave our teachers at school and just hoped that wasn’t going to happen to me as I tried to explain, in sometimes a roundabout way, what science questions we are trying to answer through ESMO. I am certain the main reason it went as well as it did was because of the teachers. Each one was distinctly different in their teaching but all were friendly and engaging. Sorting out events like we did yesterday can’t be easy for them and I can only imagine it adds to an already hectic workload.

Classroom [image © copyright Photos.com] Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Photos.com
 

It was quite eye opening to return to a school and view the whole thing as someone who was standing at the front of the class. I have a couple of friends that are teachers and I know from talking to them that teaching is much more than a nine to five job. Often they work until midnight every weekday to make sure lesson plans are made, books are marked and extra paper work is completed. Even though I know they have to do that much work it never really dawned on me until yesterday how much is done within every lesson as well.

I hear the government has come up with a nifty little plan. They have figured out with the problems in banking there are now lots of people who are good at Maths looking for work. They also see that there is a massive lack of Maths and Science teachers and so they have proposed training to become a teacher within 6 months for the best and brightest. That seems really ambitious to me. Some may find it perfectly natural to slip into the vocation of teaching but most, I suspect, would tear their hair out at the whirlwind of the classroom.

The truth is that very few people debate the worth of teachers. The best educate and inspire young people to become massively productive and interesting people. I just hope that in a workplace with increasing workload and increasing pressures that any answer to how the situation is addressed is a sustainable one.

 

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