Ready, steady, teach - Time to hang up the white coat

It's fair to say that raised eyebrows are quite a common reaction when I tell people that I've started a PGCE. That's not because they doubt that teaching is a worthwhile profession, but because I have just submitted my PhD thesis in physics.

"Shouldn't you be getting a job in a laboratory or something?" most people ask. I guess that's a fair question. Indeed, while most of my fellow postgraduate researchers are dreaming of worldwide academic recognition, my aim is to be recognised and respected on a slightly smaller scale - in the classroom.

I would be lying if I said that it has always been my dream to be a teacher. In truth, it only became a realistic option for me while working towards my PhD. Although I am proud of the work I produced during my PhD, I knew deep down that research wasn't for me. Without a doubt, the country needs more science researchers, but we need science teachers even more.

Undertaking the Training and Development Agency's Student Associates Scheme alongside my PhD helped me to make up my mind for definite - time to hang up the lab coat. Well, until my first classroom demonstration anyway.

Although I would like to think that my academic background will stand me in good stead for science teaching, I am well aware that the reality of teaching will be a shock to the system.

What if I can't control the pupils? What if they don't respect me? What if I'm not assertive in the classroom? Is my scientific knowledge enough to become a good teacher?

These questions will undoubtedly be answered in the near future, but, regardless of what the answers are, I know 100 per cent that I've made the right decision. To share what I have learnt with pupils and hopefully generate the same passion for science in them that was instilled in me as a youngster is surely a worthwhile use for my past seven years of academic study

Alex Dunlop is taking a secondary science PGCE at the Institute of Education in London.

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