All in the name of science

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
Gregor Steele wanted to be a scientist, not a physicist, when he was 10

Never mind the flowers: where have all the science teachers gone? When I was in S1, there seemed to be plenty of them. My school even had a science building.

I still have no idea why my science teacher was nicknamed Chesney. He was a compact little man with a brown suit and a beetroot face whose colour had nothing to do with ire or liquor. He told us how to avoid setting our hair on fire, then introduced the most exciting lesson I had experienced to that day. Further details are on The TESS archive somewhere.

In S2 we had a wee wummin but, after that, no more science teachers.

Instead, there were physicists, chemists and biologists. They did reunite in the staffroom, and even sang about being science teachers (to the tune of "Una Paloma Blanca") at a school charity concert.

When I trained to be a teacher, I learnt about departments. Some schools had science departments, some had separate physics, chemistry and biology departments, and some had both.

I've always been happy to describe myself as a science teacher or a physics teacher. It seems that an increasing number of science staff around the country are not. It may be a reaction against the imposition of faculties, or it may be as a consequence of pressure from on high to raise attainment, but many schools have begun to disintegrate science.

It started with the replacement of the widely, but not universally, unloved Standard grade science course by Intermediate 1s in the discrete subjects.

I used to think that individual sciences in S1 and 2 were the sole preserve of the private sector, but now I find it elsewhere and it is an increasing trend.

I have to believe fellow professionals when they say they notice an increase in pupil motivation, yet I am uneasy. I have a son in S1 and he already gets enough teachers. I find myself asking if there is enough about physics that is adequately distinctive at his cognitive level to merit a separate subject. As a teacher, I'd miss working with the kids on matters biological and chemical.

Then there's the matter of generic science skills. I will be very interested to see what the new curriculum guidelines have to say about this, explicitly and implicitly. Meantime, I am preparing to join the "no longer a science teacher" ranks, but under different circumstances.

More soon.

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