Names, nicknames, aliases and abbreviations all become mind boggling

1st July 2011 at 01:00
Post-modernist irony did not exist when I was a boy, but it sure does now

The editor calls me Greg and that's fine. I have been Greg, and indeed still am, to some of my best friends. At a funeral a couple of months ago, I was even addressed as Big G, my teenage post-modernistly ironic nickname, bestowed on me in an age when post-modernist irony did not exist.

How many names do you have? I thought that I had exhausted mine with Gregor, Greg and Big G, then I remembered Phil Harrass, Private HMI from my early TESS days. This obviously influenced people, as I once heard someone express surprise when I visited their school not wearing a trench coat.

It does not stop there. My eccentric motor vehicle habit requires that I join several internet forums (fora?) and I have several aliases there too. Don't ask.

The organisation I work for has changed its name. It is still called SSERC, but it is no longer the Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre. I now head off daily to the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (advancing science, technology and safety).

When I am at work, I do indeed research equipment. Look, there is a piece of equipment on my bench over there! But it's not all that I do. Just as BP is Beyond Petroleum, but still produces a fair whack of the stuff, SSERC is beyond only researching equipment. It has been said that the organisation exists because of the Russian Sputnik satellite. Shocked at the Soviet lead in space technology, the West decided to revamp school science courses to make them more appealing and thus recruit a new generation of scientists and engineers. As the new courses were designed to be far more hands-on, the local authorities of the Sixties realised that teachers would need ongoing guidance in safe, effective, engaging practical work and set up SSERC as a shared service.

Had you come along to the Physics Teachers' Summer School a month ago, you would have had a flavour of the other things SSERC gets up to. This event, run in partnership with the Institute of Physics in Scotland, brought 20- odd (should I rephrase that?) physics teachers together for professional development.

Perhaps the most important training that SSERC and partners run is the two-day course for virtually all PGDE Scottish science students each January. I say this because it instils the expectation of a career supported by advice and continuing professional development. CPD, like post-modernist irony, did not seem to exist in the Sixties or indeed the Seventies, Eighties or most of the Nineties either.

Big G never noticed his teachers going away on courses. Greg and Gregor didn't get out much either for many years. When they did, they liked practical, hands-on workshops based around well-researched equipment.

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre

Greg Steele has agreed to write this week's pointless autobiographical footnote.

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