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Sunny interval with scientist off the telly

The organisation for which I now work has been running a fair number of residential continuing professional development events over the past few months. For one of these courses, we decided to try to engage the services of a popular TV presenter and atmospheric physicist, well known and indeed honoured for her support of science education. Since I had made many of the arrangements, the task fell to me to introduce her to the delegates.

On the morning that this was due to take place, I became ridiculously nervous. As I awaited our guest's arrival, I was chided by some of the administration staff for pacing restlessly up and down one of the labs.

I suppose I was a little star struck, but it went further than that. The last time I spoke to someone from the BBC, I ended up with my picture in the Sunday Post, next to a cardboard cut-out of Oor Wullie. In the pose, the cartoon character and I were giving the thumbs up. His cheeky grin belied the fact that I appeared to be grabbing him by the nadgers.

Mainly, though, my angst derived from a chronic fear of saying something naff that the atmospheric physicist had heard hundreds of times before and would have to pretend to find funny. ("Hello there. Today we have a bright patch of CPD heading east to Dunfermline.")

In the end, I don't think I said anything too silly and our speaker was terrific. Some time later, I began to ponder the slightly cringeworthy comments people used to make to me when I taught.

These included: "What, not on holiday today?"; "All those sixth-year girls, eh?" and "How many kids did you beat up today?"

Oh would that they said: "I could never do your job because I couldn't find a way of making science engaging to young people." No, it's always: "I'd end up losing it and beating them up."

What is heartening is what teachers say to me now. They invariably ask: "Surely you miss the weans?"

It shows me that, despite the ridge of high pressure sitting over classroom life, most teaching staff have a sunny outlook when it comes to their charges.

Gregor Steele finds meeting TV personalities is compensation for not being on holiday all the time.

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