Education in Chemistry has been coming to the ASE annual conference for longer than I know. I’ve tried to find out just how long, but the answer lies before the collective memory of our team. And that fact doesn’t surprise me, this conference is the closest we can get to the beating heart of science teaching. We need to be here.
This is now my third time at the conference, and I look forward to these few days at the start of each year. If you keep an eye out you’ll see either me or my colleague David flitting around between sessions; tweeting from the back row of a meeting room; interviewing a speaker; gulping coffee with a teacher or two; or sitting on a coat, curled over an iPad, bashing out a pitch for a feature article for a future issue. If you’re very patient (perhaps with the help of a hide) you might even spy two lesser spotted EiC editors together, conferring between mouthfuls of packaged sandwich.
I’ve read that the best way to find satisfaction in your work is to do a job where you can find ‘flow’ – also known as ‘the zone’ – where you are focused and fully immersed in the task at hand. For a software engineer, flow can be a long session of coding. For a data-entry clerk, the methodical checking off of lines on an invoice. For me, I find flow in the frantic and focused purpose we have at this conference. After the festive break, it’s a great way to come back to work.
But, of course, your reasons for coming here will be very different from mine. Last year, in our conversations with teachers, we asked why they came to the ASE conference.
Some had very specific reasons for coming. One teacher said, ‘I’m here to find out about the changes in the GCSE specifications.’ Another was looking for ideas for assessing the practical component of science A-levels. It’s likely you also needed to make specific arguments to justify time away from school to be here.
But most teachers had fairly vague objectives – building confidence or gaining perspective. ‘It’s an opportunity to discover new ideas and resources and reflect on my practice.’ ‘This is a forum where I can meet like-minded people.’ ‘It gives me the chance to step back and consider the bigger picture of science teaching.’ These goals will all be harder to sell to a headteacher, but they might be just as important as specific targets.
Perhaps this is where my reasons for being here overlap with yours. It comes back to the beating heart of science teaching. You know that teaching can be a fairly lonely job. Even at larger schools, you might have only two or three other colleagues to speak to, to bounce ideas off, to learn from. But here is where you can find a reliable baseline. Here you can get a view of the bigger picture, and find encouragement and confidence to aspire to be an even better teacher. And where else does that happen?
This article is part of a special issue we published for the ASE annual conference. It includes selected articles from our January issue that showcase some of the themes and speakers featured at the event in Reading.