Emily Kneller

Chemistry Teacher Training Scholarship

"Having the RSC scholarship for my training year has been great. There is a financial gain to being a scholar, but the extra training days with the RSC are definitely its main advantage."

What inspired you to become a chemistry teacher?

I’ve always been a sociable person who enjoys meeting and chatting with new people, and science was one of my favourite subjects at school. Whilst undertaking my chemistry degree at Warwick university, I realised that a job in research wouldn’t be right for me. However, I wanted to make sure I ended up in a job that put my chemistry degree to good use. Teaching is that perfect mix of a sociable job which allows me to put all the knowledge I have gained during my time in education to good use. I also really enjoyed my time at school when I was younger, so it was an environment I was happy to return to. Whilst I was in 6th form, I did some tutoring with some younger students which I really enjoyed and found very rewarding. All these have led to pursue teaching as a career, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

What do you think makes a good teacher?

A good teacher who is someone who has a genuine interest in their students, not only their academic success but their person as a whole. Good subject knowledge is key, but it is important for us as teachers to remember that, to our students, this may be the most difficult thing they have come across in a long time, even if it seems easy to us. Someone who can understand their student’s perspective will make a much better teacher than someone who can’t. And something that continuously crops up, but the more I am training, the more it proves to be right, is that the student teacher relationship is paramount to being a successful teacher. I find it difficult to define exactly what this student teacher relationship is, but I feel it is that little bit extra that you offer to a student. You aren’t just that adult at the front of the room who tells them what they need to know for their exams. You are someone they can trust, someone with whom they know where they stand and someone they can approach for whatever help they need, be it academic or personal. Again, it is difficult to define how to build this relationship, but linking back to earlier, someone who takes a genuine interest in their student’s lives will find it much easier to build this good relationship. And a bit of humour, I think, can make a great teacher.

What do you think will be the most challenging part?

Workload is something that we often hear about as being the bane of teacher’s lives, and that is something I worry may become a difficulty in the job. Currently my workload is very manageable. As a trainee, I am on a reduced timetable. This means I have more time to plan and mark and less classes worth of reports and admin. I am curious about what my workload will be like when I become a full-time teacher. However, I am a very organised and efficient person, which will significantly help me, and next year I will be teaching some lessons which I have already planned and taught this year. But only time will tell how well I cope with it. I can’t complain too much though, at the time of writing this, I have just had two weeks off over Christmas to enjoy with my family, whilst lots of other friends were working, so it’s swings and roundabouts I guess.

What is a typical day like?

At my current stage in training, I am teaching around 3 lessons a day. During the rest of my time I am planning, marking, asking lots of questions to my science technician and practicing experiments that I have never done before. As well as those activities which contribute to my time in the classroom, I am also doing work to contribute towards my PGCE and obtaining QTS status. I read journal articles and research to help my university assignments and create folders of evidence to show that I can meet the teacher’s standards. I'm never short of something to do. Working in classes brings variety to my day. Seeing different students of different ages, teaching different topics and all sorts of different conversations and laughs with students make for a great day at work.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I am realising through my training that it is my love of my subject which I why I am enjoying my job so much. Head of Chemistry seems like a realistic goal for the next 5 years, and maybe Head of Science after that, but workload will be a large consideration before moving down that route. I've not thought about any sort of senior leadership roles yet, I am so early on in my career and I am really enjoying my time in the classroom, so I wouldn't want a job that removed me too much from that environment.

What is the advantage of being a scholar in comparison to training without a scholarship?

Having the RSC scholarship for my training year has been great. There is a financial gain to being a scholar, but the extra training days with the RSC are definitely its main advantage. A recent RSC training day taught me so many useful things which I can't wait to try out in my classroom. I found the session we had on micro-chemistry particularly useful. This enables you to carry out experiments on a very small scale, which can help with schools that are tight on funding, and can allow each individual student to complete the experiment due to the small amount of chemicals being used. My mentor at my training school was keen to hear about the ideas I had from the day and I hope to implement these into my classroom in the future. Having a separate RSC mentor is also very helpful. I have emailed them a few times and their response is always helpful and prompt. Although my mentor at my training school is helpful, sometimes it is nice to get other ideas from a different perspective to allow me to come to my own conclusion of what will work best for me in my teaching. I receive a bi-monthly edition of Education in Chemistry, which comes with practical teaching ideas to use in my classroom, and I have received a box of 'goodies', such as a lab coat, goggles, posters, a periodic table, a few text books and a very cool thermosensitive RSC mug! I would thoroughly recommended applying for the scholarship if you are considering teaching chemistry. For the small amount of time it takes to fill in the application, the benefits are so worth it.

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