It is a real privilege to be attending the biennial Science on Stage Event in Cascais, Portugal.

There are 450 Science Teachers from around Europe, and further afield all with amazing ideas, projects and ways of teaching their students.

Setting up the Project stands.
About 1/3 of the exhibits


Representing Lockerbie Academy, Scotland and Escola Secundaria Maria Lamas, Portugal we have Hear Today – Gone Tomorrow.
Sebastian Funk is a great master of ceremonies.

After the set up of all the stands…….

End of an Epoch

21st September marks Catherine Wilson’s birthday but also an end to the IoP network coordinators as we’ve known it. To celebrate the people who instigated and ran the network and started the fantastic Physics forum met together for a find farewell and catch up. I was honoured to be invited but felt like a gate crasher! The people round the table had all provided advise, help, role models and support through my long career. Each person’s skill set was distinct and eclectic and they are mainly responsible for the positive shape of Scottish physics education.

The amazing movers and shakers of Physics education, and me!

Somewhere in a Rainbow

Thanks to Lewis and Sandy, who spotted a beautiful, intense, double rainbow from my window during a non-contact period today. Luckily I had a polarising filter to hand and Lewis managed to capture some photos showing rainbows are partially plain polarised. Check out the photos below.

the rainbow

The Rainbow through a polarising filter.
If you rotate the polarising filter most of the rainbow disappears.

What a way to spend a non-contact. Thank you! I suggest you keep a bit of polarising filter in your pocket, just in case! Don’t pinch mine though John needs it for his AH Project.


Night off

Not sure what the students did over the holidays but I don’t think it was much work! But maybe they were right. We are faced with a 13 week term and I’m exhausted- it’s day 3 back at work.

I was hoping that catching up over Christmas would have put me in better fettle to face the term but there are too many demands on me!

So the computers are off and left at work. Just an AGM to go to tonight, a friend who is in hospital to visit, a house to tidy, but first a cuppa and a kip!

It’s out!

Hot off the press, with the help of the Scottish physics teachers’ forum I’ve discovered the 2019 SQA timetable has been published. Not sure why physics isn’t at the distant end but the Biology exam is in April and that’s not something I can’t recall from my years of teaching .

I’ll attach the document below and you can get all sorted.

Only 323 days to the Physics exam on 15th May 2019



Lesson in teaching

I’ve been teaching for a very long time, so long that I could have taught most of the staff. It seems odd then that I heard a good quote for teaching on Friday and heard it three times in 24 hours…….and the quote

Children remember not what you teach them but the way you make them feel

Now I think this is a great quote so why has no one told me before? Well just in case you haven’t come across this little nugget imI sharing it with you now. Shame Shame no one reads this!

Teaching in the 21 Century

I’ve been teaching for a long time now, longer than the probationer has been alive, but every year teachers get more and more tired and it isn’t because I’m too old. We’ve been back six days and already there has been tears from people with too much on their plate and too many students who need the teacher’s time if they are to do their best: time we don’t really have.

To the teachers who work hard all year, and often don’t have time to even go to the loo or eat dinner or grab a bite to eat I say…. this one is for you

To those who chose the school holiday dates I say…..

Please take careful note to monitor the sickness and stress rate of your staff. Teaching is not a 09:00-15:30 job!  You need to take care of the workforce and put their interest at heart.


I touch the future- I teach

As usual it is raining in my home town, so, as I wandered off home I got out the umbrella I was given at the Science on Stage Conference 2017 in Debrecan, Hungary. It was left over from the Science on Stage London 2015 event, where the weather was typically wonderful.

I can’t say that I was concentrating on where I was going as one of the quotes around the edge of the brolly was “I touch the future- I teach,” by Christa McCulliffe. For those that don’t know, she was the school teacher selected to be the first teacher in space and chosen for flight STS-51-L. This was the flight that never made it into space as it was the Challenger, that blew apart on January 28 1986, starting 73 seconds after lift-off. It was the 25th flight of the American Space Shuttle program, and disastrous final mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted-off from Launch Complex 39-B, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission ended in catastrophic failure with the destruction of Challenger, and the death of all seven crew members.

I can’t begin to imagine the effect on this event on her family, friends and students she taught, and yet, in her short life she really had grasped something about the privilege of teaching. As teachers we really do have the chance to see students who will go on to have their own amazing lives, whether seemingly dull or interesting. Each student chooses their own future and makes their own life. Even getting through life for some is an achievement in itself.

Thanks Christa, that after all these years, you can still influence people and give renewed enthusiasm for the special job we do.


Real Role Models

I’ve got a slot again for the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday 21st August 2017 (loads of tickets still available). I am on a panel with Author Gill Arbuthnott  and Illustrator Neill Cameron. As part of our research preparation Gill and I met up in Blackwell’s Bookshop in Edinburgh. After a couple of coffees in Café Nero and a catch up we set off around the books to do some research. Nearly thirty years ago I did my teacher training course at Goldsmiths’ College London, we had several lectures on looking through the printed word and look for stereotypes, images and think of the subliminal messages these may deliver. So as part of our research we wandered the shop to find images in Science books.

Firstly what riled us, and continues to annoy, is that Science books are found in the most inspiring of categories (said with true irony)- REFERENCE! It doesn’t matter if the book is knowledge or a story, that is where it is dumped! Then we looked for images of people.

Gill Researching!

What became obvious was in the thirty years since my teacher training things haven’t moved on. There were virtually NO images of African Caribbean people in Science books. There were a few Asian images, and plenty of girls and women.

We found one image on the front of a nursing book.

Imagine if you were a black child in a class in school. How would you feel that this thing called Science applies to you if you never see any role models? How can we engage and make you people contribute and realise they have an important role to play? Steps are being made to address the gender gap in Science by creating opportunities for women. I say there is also a  requirement for us to engage the 3.5% of the UK population that have African-Caribbean roots.

I hope that I’ve not said anything un-PC. I find it hard to keep up, but I would like to get any opinions from this under-representative population of the UK. Hopefully we can get a few authors to write some popular books, particularly Science books where the hero is connected to this group of the population. Would anyone like to be the star?

So if that is you- stand up and tell us how we can inspire you!