Victoria Speed

Chemistry Teacher Training Scholarship

"There are lots of days that are very challenging and I’m pleased to be working with some fantastic colleagues but the excitement of year 7 carrying out practicals makes me smile every time."

BSc Hons Pharmacy in 1988 (2.2)

Thomas Estley Learning Alliance and University of Leicester Secondary Science PGCE 2017.

My journey into the world of chemistry teaching began a couple of years ago when I realised I wanted to make a career change from working as a health professional after volunteering with young people as a Scout leader. I attended an RSC event for secondary school teachers, before I even started training, and I met some active RSC teacher members, Dr Kristy Turner and Catherine Smith. They inspired me to apply for the scholarship for teacher training.

As a career changer it was important for me to know that I was a suitable candidate for teacher training. I was able to make use of the premier plus advice, service which I accessed through the ‘get into teaching’ website. I also attended ‘train to teach’ events to find out about teaching and book school experience days. My advisor was fantastic. He helped me think about my useful and important transferrable skills for teacher training and coached me in preparing my personal statement. Having a degree in pharmacy meant I had a good understanding of chemistry but I undertook a subject knowledge enhancement course before I started training and this gave me lots of confidence.

Applying for the scholarship meant putting in some effort and I was pleased to be offered an interview and assessment day in London. I enjoyed the day and met some really great people and was thrilled to be successful in gaining a scholarship. The financial benefits were substantial but I really appreciated having a mentor and being able to attend the special scholarship days. I am the only teacher in my school with an RSC lab coat and the books and other materials have been incredibly useful in the classroom and also for extra-curricular science club activities.

The process of completing a subject knowledge enhancement course and of applying for the RSC scholarship have massively helped me in preparing for teacher training. The practical skills we used on our scholarship days have given me lots of confidence in the classroom and I have been able to try some of the innovations in my school, like microscale chemistry.

Finding the right teacher training provider is important because you’re making a big commitment. There are different ways of training and, for me, school direct was a really good fit. Confidence in the classroom does take a while but for those of us who have retrained from another career, that previous career will have helped you massively especially if you’ve been used to talking to groups of people. My advice to anyone thinking about training teacher training is to get in the classroom by volunteering and spending time finding out what it’s really like to be in a school and working with students. Also, talk to teachers who have recently done their training and try and find people in a similar position to you. For me it was talking to teacher trainees with families, to try and understand how to manage family life alongside training and working. There is quite a leap from training to being a newly qualified teacher and it’s vital to have a good network around you; from family and friends and supportive colleagues who will encourage you. Another reason to pick your training provider and then your first job with care.

The most important thing I’ve learnt during my training is that (to coin a phrase) ‘every day school day’ and every day you will learn something new; anything from reflecting on a lesson to a shortcut on your laptop to make presenting easier. There are lots of days that are very challenging and I’m pleased to be working with some fantastic colleagues but the excitement of year 7 carrying out practicals makes me smile every time.

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