Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Secondary school teachers on placement at the Babraham Institute

From the classroom to the lab

This week the Institute is delighted to host three biology teachers as part of STEM Insight, a programme to allow teachers to experience research in a variety of environments which is supported by STEM Learning and the Biochemical Society. The placements allow teachers to update their knowledge, identify research developments and areas of synergy with their teaching and also to learn more about the range of career options available to their students. While at the Institute, the teachers will join several different research groups, scientific facilities and science-support teams to receive a multi-faceted overview of the Institute’s research and activities.
As they get to know us, and we get to know them, we asked the teachers to introduce themselves, their teaching and what they’re most looking forward to from their week at the Institute. Meet Eleanor, Ruth and Bethan.
Eleanor, a teacher on placement at the InstituteName: Eleanor Smith
Teaches at: Lampton School, a comprehensive school for 11-18 year olds in Hounslow, West London.
Subjects and ages: I teach all science subjects to 11-16 years old, Biology A level and Chemistry AS level.
How did you get into teaching?
I got into teaching after completing a PhD in biochemistry and realising that a career in research wasn't for me. I also knew I didn't want to do an office-based job. I wanted to do something that combined my interest in science with working with people and something I wouldn't get bored of - it turns out this is teaching!
What do you love about it?
Every day is different and there's never an opportunity to get bored. The students are amazing and are why I love the job - it's a privilege to work with young people who are constantly developing and learning. Playing a small part in this and seeing them overcome challenges and go on to succeed is very rewarding.
For balance, what’s the worst?
The workload.
What are you looking forward to this week?
Finding out about cutting-edge research, learning new things and updating and extending my knowledge. Hopefully doing some lab work. Linking this all in to my teaching and sharing with students and colleagues.
Ruth, a teacher on placement at the InstituteName: Ruth Noble
Teaches at: Framlingham College, in beautiful rural Suffolk, in the town of Framlingham known for its castle, not far from the East coast, and near Ipswich.
Subjects and ages: I teach Chemistry to Y9 - Y11 and Biology from Y9 - Y13, and participate in the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) programme.
How did you get into teaching?
Well, now therein lies a longish tale...but the short version is that the then Head of Framlingham College, Mrs Gwen Randall, a very forward thinking lady who was ahead of her time, took a chance on me, back in 2006, that I would be able to teach, and also be a Housemistress of one of the girls' boarding houses at the College. So I was given the opportunity, well ahead of its time, to learn and teach on the job, whilst undertaking a PGCE. I feel so grateful to Gwen, for being such an innovator and for supporting me to try something that must have been very much not the norm in those days.
What do you love about it?
Everything - it is wonderful to be around young people, and to be part of the process of watching them learn and enjoy their science. No two days are the same and even though it can feel like you are always on the go, the days whizz by and every day is a new chapter. The satisfaction of working out a new way to deliver a particular topic and then seeing it actually work as the students 'get it' is huge!
For balance, what’s the worst?
The holidays! No, of course I am joking, as the holidays are amazing although contrary to popular belief we do do a fair bit of planning work in the holidays too. What is the worst aspect of teaching? Sometimes those days when it feels hard to motivate a class...but to be honest, even then, the challenge of turning things around can be quite fun.
What are you looking forward to this week?
Having the opportunity and the privilege to be a 'fly on the wall' watching scientists at the top of their field, carrying out their work.  I cannot wait to see all the I love all the machinery that has been developed in recent years, and then just listening to someone who knows their subject is a real joy. Plus, being a student again, on the other side of the table as it were, is always a good experience as it reminds you how your own students have to cope. Ideally, I would also like to be able to think of ways to develop my teaching to the A level students of the various topics that overlap with this week, and also to be able to enthuse my students with the possible career pathways open to them after their degree. Finally, also getting to know Bethan and Eleanor, my fellow placement colleagues better and to get tips from them to help with our teaching.
Bethan, a teacher on placement at the InstituteName: Bethan Foulkes
Teaches at: Parkside Federation Academy located in the centre of Cambridge.
Subjects and ages: I teach all science to 11-14 year olds, Biology and Chemistry to 14-16 year olds, and Biology to 16-18 year olds.
How did you get into teaching?
I did my PGCE straight out of university; teaching is something I had wanted to do for as long as I can remember (my primary school teacher even remembers, so a fair while!). I was inspired by many of my teachers, but my GCSE/A-level Biology teacher was the final influence that tipped me into teaching biology.
What do you love about it?
It is so varied. Each day is different, even though we follow a timetable. My students are wonderful, and have an excellent sense of humour. I also enjoy the moment when you see a class, or a specific student for that matter, finally understand something, or find something really interesting - it's the best.
For balance, what’s the worst?
The paperwork (there is a lot!!). The fact that people including myself are different each day - sometimes you can collide with some pretty bad moods!
What are you looking forward to this week?
Looking forward to learning about the new techniques and research that is going on, and seeing how much things have changed since I was in university eight years ago. It will be nice to get a clearer picture of what is going on in the world of biology, and what options there are for my students who want to go further.

More about our teacher placements:

Teachers Iona Martin, Head of Biology at Colchester County High School for Girls, and Cecile Roquain, Head of Biology at St Charles College, London, spent a week at the Institute as part of the same scheme in February. Find out more about their experience here.

Image description:

Ruth, Eleanor and Bethan swap the classroom for the lab during their placement week at the Institute as part of the STEM Insights programme. 

Related content:

Insights to real-life research - reflections from Ruth, Eleanor and Bethan after completing their placement week at the Institute.



19 October, 2016