Moving into teaching is a subject that we consider at regular intervals as part of the CABS programme. In the past we have had presentations from alumni at various stages of their careers (including Science teaching: In the classroom and beyond and Teaching biology overseas).
In 2013, we asked three former students – Hajra Kali, Nailah Sattar, Mital Thanki – all of whom had graduated in 2010, to come and share some advice based on their experiences during qualification and their early days of classroom practice. Rather than formal presentations, the format on this occasion was a Q&A session. The main points emerging from the conversation are summarised below.
At the time of the event, Hajra was working at Soar Valley Community College and Nailah was at Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I Sixth Form College (known locally as “QE”). Mital was teaching at Longslade Community College, as well as running a Tutorial business in her spare time. Since then, however, she has expanded the Tutorial work, a role she has now taken on full-time.
Thank you for sparing time this afternoon to come and discuss teaching with us. I wonder if I might start by asking you to say a bit about the context in which you are teaching at the moment, and what training route you went through.
Nailah: I did a PGCE at the School of Education, here in Leicester. I trained to teach secondary science, so that Year 7 (age 11) upwards. I knew that I wanted to focus on the high year groups, particularly A level, but it’s pretty rare for jobs to come up for newly qualified teachers which are that specific. However, a post was advertised at QE, the sixth form college next door, so I applied and I got the job. Read more…
The 2013 season of CABS talks included a presentation about working in human resources. Susie [BSc(Hons) Medical Biochemistry] works for pharmaceutical company Roche. She describes some of the work of the company, her role in the area of pensions provisions and a little about the – convoluted – journey by which she came to have her present role. The presentation concludes with some excellent general advice.
Mark Hodson [BSc(Hons) Biochemistry, 2006; PhD Biochemistry, 2011] gave a presentation at the 2013 series of CABS talks about his work as a Technical Sales Representative. As well as talking about the specifics of his role, Mark also gave some very helpful advice about a range of careers-related issues including the rationale for doing a PhD, reasons for not continuing into academic sciences, and tips on enhancing your chances of getting to the interview stage.
At the time of the talk (February 2013) Mark was working for Labtech. In April 2013 he moved to work for Thermo, a larger company. A slidecast of his talk is available. You can click through the slides but I do recommend listening to the audio (31 mins) to make the most of the advice on offer.
Jon Howe [BSc(Hons) Medical Biochemistry, 2005; PhD (Biochemistry), 2009] is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the prestigious Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he has particular responsibility for running the light microscopy service. His work includes development of novel imaging techniques.
Jon spoke about his work at the 2013 CABS seminar series. As well as discussing his present role, Jon gave some very helpful advice about doing a PhD.
A slidecast of Jonathan’s talk – with embedded audio (17 mins), is available below.
“I found this talk incredibly interesting. I was already aware that some graduates went on to further study and research after the BSc., but I did not know very much about what that actually involved or what the career path would be like. After this talk I have become much more interested in exploring the option of applying for a Masters or PhD. The speaker gave lots of useful advice about what qualities are needed for research, including determination to finish long projects. He also suggested undertaking a summer internship and choosing a lab-based project for the final year of the degree.”
Isobel, first year Medical Physiology
This is the first of a series of careers articles written by biology graduates who are, or have been, working overseas. In this short account, Simon Aellen [BSc Biological Sciences (1994)] shares some tips for anyone considering teaching biology overseas.
I am not sure I had thought of teaching when I started my Biological Sciences degree but as I approached graduation in 1994 it seemed a good combination of being interested in Biology and wanting to interact with people. It turns out teaching Biology is a very exportable skill and I have worked overseas in 3 different cities:
- Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei (extra points if you can find this on a map),
- Shanghai in China, and
- Frankfurt in Germany.
Friends have made a permanent career out of international teaching and have spanned all the continents. Living in a different culture is very enriching, the opportunities to travel almost limitless and the money can be better than the UK.
Most countries you can think of have an international school and if you head to Asia, Eastern Europe or the Middle East you will get accommodation and a good package. If you head to parts of Africa or the South America the accommodation is still included but the money may not be so good.
Many schools use the UK curriculum so the job of teaching is similar but with smaller classes, more engaged students and usually good facilities.
When looking for somewhere to work, bear the following in mind:
- Do look for a school that is accredited and in a place you fancy living.
- Do work in the UK for at least 2 years first, as most good schools expect this.
- Don’t expect a UK standard of professionalism in every area, there are no unions in most of Asia and Heads can act as they wish in many circumstances.
- Do expect most staff to be open and willing to help the newbie.
- Don’t expect every school in the UK to value your overseas experience, I have always found work on return but the ratio of applications to interviews is much lower on the way back.
- Do expect a better work life balance than in the UK.
I am now back in the UK working as Head of Biology in an independent day school. I have certainly enjoyed and benefitted from my time working overseas. I can get by badly in Chinese and have seen places and met people I otherwise would not have done so. Teaching Ecology is certainly helped when you have been to the best panda research centre in the world.
The Society of Biology, with the support of several of the other learned societies, organises a series of careers events. The programme for each day tends to follow a fairly standard pattern. Resources from their 2012 series of conferences have recently been made available on their website, including:
Advice on planning your careers (Amy Horne, University of Birmingham)
Planning your careers (Mark Gallagher, Queen’s University Belfast)
Planning your career (Jess Henderson, University of Leeds)
Pathways into academic research (Simon Cutler, BBSRC)
Pathways in academic research (Elizabeth Ashton, Queen’s University Belfast)
Pathways into academic research (Robert Hardwick, BBSRC)
Career pathways in industry (Mark Christie, Kings College London)
Career pathways in industry (Keeva McCelland, Almac Discovery)
Careers in the environmental sector (Graham Hopkins, Ecology Consultancy)
Careers in the environmental sector (Patricia Mackey, Sustainable NI)
Biomedical and Clinical Science
Biomedical and clinical science careers (Mike Carter, Health Protection Agency)
Careers in patent law (Robert Andrews, Mewburn Ellis)
Careers in patent law (Alan Wallace, FRKelly)
Careers in patent law (Fran Salisbury, Mewburn Ellis)
Careers in science communication (Sarah Blackford, SEB)
Careers in science communication (Eva Sharpe, Society of Biology)
Careers in science communication (Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Society of Biology)
CVs and job applications
CV workshop (Carl Jukes, University of Birmingham)
CV and job applications workshop (Mark Gallagher, QUB and Lauren Donaghy, Randox Laboratories)
CV workshop (Jess Henderson, University of Leeds)