I felt it was time for me to make a difference – so I chose physics teaching

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I was working in industry research in wireless telecoms when I decided to switch to teaching following a growing lack of fulfilment and an overall frustration with my career in research and engineering.

There was so much wasted effort where ideas were not pursued for a plethora of reasons: political, economic, regulatory – and occasionally because my ideas were just rubbish and didn’t work. Research can be cyclic and repetitive after a while – and I was doing it for nearly two decades.

I’d been circling around teaching for many years, as a STEM ambassador, as a school governor (and chair of governors), schools liaison for my professional institution, the IET, as a volunteer for science clubs and other outreach activities. In the months leading up to the start of my training, I also worked as an exams invigilator and worked as an unqualified teacher in a secondary school.

The opportunity finally presented itself for me to take the leap, and I jumped. Now it’s time to make a difference, to have a job where every minute of the day matters and will have an impact that will last lifetimes.

I’ve gone for school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) leading to both Qualified Teacher Status and (touch wood!) a PGCE, via the University of the West of England. I chose this route because I felt it was a good balance between the university theory and the hands-on, school-based practice, as I felt that, of all things, teaching is a craft that needs to be learned by focusing on the doing as much as studying the theory.

Even though, as more of an academic theoretician naturally, I’d have happily sat in weeks of lectures, I felt that it wasn’t the best way for me to learn the skills. I was also attracted by the structure: rather than blocks of theory and blocks of training, the SCITT interleaves the two, making it easier to try out newly learned ideas in the classroom, and faster to get support and advice if you have a problem.

So far I’ve been on a lesson-observation rotation carousel, although still able to work with individual students and small groups. I’m chomping at the bit to get in front of classes and actually teach – but wise enough to know that rushing into it would be foolhardy.

So far, the IOP Teacher Training Scholarship has given me the chance to meet with other likeminded trainee physics teachers – we’re pretty thin on the ground, with only one other in my SCITT cohort. And I’ve benefitted from the resources made available to me. I’m really looking forward to the local and national events that I’ve booked onto already.

Having not officially done physics since 1990, it’s great to soak up all this physics-specific knowledge and physics ways of thinking.

  • You could train to teach with a £28,000 scholarship and support through the Institute of Physics. Apply online
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Russell Haines

Russell Haines

Dr Dr Russell Haines CEng FIET CMgr FCMI SMIEEE SMACM AMInstP is a trainee physics teacher and IOP Teacher Training Scholar. He entered teaching after having worked as a researcher in the wireless telecomms industry and began his career as a software engineer working mobile phone development.
Russell Haines
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