Case study: teaching chemistry

Dr John Fennel, chemistry teacher

Dr John Fennell, chemistry teacher

John owes his love for chemistry to one particular teacher he had at school – Dr Mackinnon. Always believing in John and inspiring him to fulfil his potential, it was because of Dr Mackinnon that John went on to complete a PhD in chemistry, and now wants to make a difference to other students.

“I have to admit I struggled with chemistry because everyone, from students to teachers, gave me the impression that it was difficult. This is still the case now – but thanks to Dr Mackinnon, I came to realise that it just isn’t true. Now when I teach, I’m not just thinking about exam grades – I’m focussed on helping students become the best they can be.”

John believes that it’s his role as a teacher to break down the misconception that chemistry is a difficult subject, and he does this by constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to teach his subject. “Every topic can be broken down into something really simple and related to real-life scenarios. I have many ideas on how to teach my subject in new ways, such as how a multi-step reaction is like making a cup of coffee and how predicting shapes of molecules is like setting up a camera tripod. Through teaching, I can be amazingly creative with chemistry, and I can use my artistic flair to make chemistry accessible to all students.”

John’s two top tips for anyone thinking about getting into teaching are to take on board constructive comments when you are being observed though your teacher training, and to implement them in your future lessons. He says it’s also really important to be organised and resourceful, and to know what the structure of each lesson should be.

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