I was inspired by teachers at school and it is something I have always been interested in.
In the sixth form I did community service as a classroom assistant in a standard grade chemistry class. I helped three times a week, working with small groups of pupils and acting as a scribe for pupils with dyslexia.
At university I initially decided on a research career but after completing my degree and masters came back to the idea of teaching. As part of my degree I did a New Ways of Teaching Chemistry research module aimed at first year undergraduates but saw how this could be relevant for school based teaching and this reinforced my decision to teach.
I returned to my old school to observe lessons and check teaching was the right route for me.
What route into teaching did you choose?
I had previously studied at Edinburgh University so decided to apply here to do a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Secondary at Moray House School of Education. As well as practical placements the course involved taking in a lot of information relating to different teaching strategies. It is now, when I am putting these into practice, I can see the relevance of this and that it has provided a good foundation for further personal development.
How easy did you find it to get your first job?
The Scottish system allows you to select preferred local authorities to work in for your induction year and I was lucky to be matched to a school in Edinburgh, my first choice. During this year I attended continuous professional development (CPD) sessions specifically for science teachers on how to apply for jobs and prepare for interviews. I wanted to stay in Edinburgh in the school where I did my induction but they were only offering a part-time post, so I accepted a full-time position in East Lothian.
What does your job involve?
I have a full teaching timetable, with one free period each day for lesson planning, preparation and marking. I teach the whole age range from S1-S6 (11-17 year olds) teaching biology, chemistry and physics in rotation up to age of 13 and then chemistry to the older pupils.
Because I have a full teaching timetable I do not have a registration class (tutor group). I do however have lots of other responsibilities! I run a chemistry study club after school once a week, where I support students who are having difficulty with homework, provide exam practice and run revision sessions. With a colleague I run an after school science club for S1 and S2 where the extra time allows us to do more ambitious and exciting experiments. Two lunchtimes a week I coach two gifted S5 pupils and help them with their career plans.
What hours do you work?
Monday to Thursday I am in at 8am for 8.30am school start, school finishes at 3.30pm and I leave around 4pm. I sometimes do some marking or planning in the evening. On Fridays school finishes at noon but I stay on until 4pm either attending a CPD session or school working group. I endeavour to keep my weekends free!
What skills or qualities do you think teachers need?
Patience – both with yourself and the pupils. When you start teaching you don’t get everything right straight away. You need to be very organised – or at least learn how to be so! You also need to be a warm person with a sense of humour.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love the look on a pupil’s face when they have eventually understood something after struggling with it. The relationship you can form with a class, seeing individuals grow and develop and passing on your passion for a subject are all very satisfying.
One of my best moments was taking four pupils to the Salters’ Festivals of Chemistry – a practical chemistry challenge for schools. I was sitting at the back of the hall as the winners were announced and to my surprise the girls had won and not able to contain their excitement, were waving madly at me from the front calling ‘Miss Adams we did it!’
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Before going on placement on my PGDE I was worried about how to discipline pupils, but you are taught different strategies and with experience find one that suits your own personality and works for you.
What tips do you have for those considering teaching?
If you have a passion for science, passing this on to others through teaching can be immensely satisfying.
Find out more about training to teach in Scotland.