Meet our Cohort 2021-22Back
Dr Sharmeen Haque: Chemistry Graduate
“What has been the highlight of your week?”
“Chemistry is sick!”, Year 12 student; “Miss can we light methane bubbles on our hands like in the video?”, Year 10 student.
Although unfortunately I declined the second request due to potential safety concerns, I assured my Year 10 student that we would undertake other, but also fun, experiments in class. I did however agree with my Year 12 student that yes indeed, Chemistry is sick. If you are not familiar with this modern linguistic gem, please be assured that “sick” in this instance translates to “cool”, and if even this is confusing, it means it is amazing (no quotes, simpler times). The enthusiasm on these students’ faces was such a highlight, and it was great to see that practical work such as colour-changing titration experiments can bring on competitive vibes and infuse such joy into Year 12 lessons. There were heated debates on whether the pinks being observed were “peach” or “magenta” before the race to finish and work out the mass of the mystery acid.
“Miss, can you choose to stay at our school next year?”, Year 12 student
Like most weeks, it has been busy with a variety of different tasks, with emphasis this week being on termly assessments. The Year 10 assessments for my class had been marked last week and it was a pleasure to see that overall, most of the class performed really well, with a good number obtaining full or marks over 90%. This week it was great to give them positive feedback as a class, along with some Praise Postcards, and see the pride on their faces. As we lead up to Year 12 assessments taking place next week, lesson planning has been even more important to ensure that students have received the help they need to prepare. It has been a very valuable experience to attend data analysis meetings to look at whole year groups and identify students who might need extra support. I had reviewed my Year 12 classes from the previous assessment and had handed out Kalos certificates (derived from the Greek ethos of excellence) to a few, and invited students I thought could do with some extra support to attend an extra Chemistry session, where they can ask questions on classwork or homework. Amidst the cycle of planning and delivering lessons, marking work and delivering constant reminders, keeping students on task and answering questions, one of the Year 12 students, who attends my extra sessions, became another of the highlights of my week, by asking me whether I would be teaching their class next year. Being aware that I am away one day in the week at another school, they then asked, “Miss, can you choose to stay at our school next year?”
“Why did you start your teacher training?”
Of all the different types of work I have experienced – and there have been a few over time, including working for universities, a structural drug research and publishing company, the NHS as a manager, as a student working for a campaigns company (apologies to any of you who I randomly tried to approach in the street, but it was for a good cause!) and teaching at A-level – the one aspect of every post I loved was teaching and training, especially in science. However, either there had not been as much teaching time as I would have liked, or the teaching felt a bit detached due to the nature of the courses. I wanted to spend my hours at work on something that I loved to do and that would make a positive contribution to children and society, ideally involving science.
When the Covid lockdown closed labs at universities, I was forced into working part-time. One day, as I tried hard to enjoy my very poorly hand-whipped dalgona coffee (all the rage back in lockdown to make your own by hand!), I thought that this was an opportune time to really think about the field I wanted to pursue. I went onto the Get into Teaching website to investigate teaching science. In contrast to the lacklustre foam in my tiny, feeble coffee, an enthusiasm worthy bubble of opportunity arose on the screen – I could pursue teaching at schools part-time and become professionally trained as a science teacher, and there was funding available for science subjects! I never looked back. I attended online events hosted by Get into Teaching and signed up for help. My assigned teacher training advisor, Stephen Flavin, gave me valuable guidance and advice throughout the application and interview process.
I initially looked at part-time PGCE courses, but after securing and discussing some offers, it was clear that full-time was the best option for me. It took a lot of courage to leave my post of around 10 years at UCL, but once I had spoken to Yasmine Pieri and Jose Oliveira at Harris ITE and received their warm and encouraging support and advice, I took the leap and accepted the full-time PGCE with QTS offer. I chose Harris above other offers as I received very organised and supportive help, was secured an Ofsted graded outstanding school placement very quickly and heard about their excellent reputation from a teacher friend. Jose had advised that many teachers had the opportunity to work within Harris academies after completing the course successfully, which gave me confidence for future job prospects.
When I attended the group interview day, I very much enjoyed meeting the Head of Harris ITE, Shona Findlay, staff and other students from diverse career backgrounds. Immediately, I felt that I would enjoy studying at Harris and would have lovely tutors and colleagues. Indeed, from the first day, the Harris staff and other students were friendly and supportive. At my main placement school, Harris Westminster Sixth Form (HWSF), the Head, Mr Handscombe, and the whole team have been inspiring, helpful and kind. My HWSF mentor, Dr Bladon, and ITE Tutor, James Wright, are fantastic and I am enjoying learning valuable teaching techniques and methods from them. The students I have the pleasure of teaching are enthusiastic and work hard. The lectures on our training day at ITE are brilliant and the day flies by in a flurry of fascinating pedagogic knowledge learning and absorbing discussions with fellow trainees. Funnily, the most challenging issue I faced in joining the course in September was that I had lost my GCSE certificates, without which I could not enrol! After searching through many, many, many boxes, they turned up in the last box I looked in (typical) and I was finally able to secure the offer. I did not make a dalgona coffee to celebrate however, and actually have banned myself from making one again.
I cannot believe that we are already starting the second half-term! I am so grateful to be able to undertake my PGCE at Harris due to the valuable support and training I am receiving at Harris ITE and HWSF. It has been a great training experience so far and while it is fast-paced with lots of deadlines, I am enjoying every minute!