The science teacher skill set

Do you feel like a superhero? Do you navigate the huge range of demands on your skill set with effortless ease? Or do you feel like you’re pulled in a million different directions? All the secondary school teachers I know feel they’re sinking more often than swimming – not because they struggle with their work, but because there are so many facets to it, and so much to get done.

There’s a great deal bound up in the job title of a secondary school chemistry teacher. Even if you have an unwavering grasp of the minute details of the concepts underpinning the chemistry curriculum, there’s a good chance you don’t feel quite so confident in physics or biology. However, depending on your situation, you might have to teach those subjects, too. Teaching science can be a unique challenge when you have to teach three subjects rather than one.

But gaining knowledge of a subject is relatively straightforward compared to teaching it. Chemistry is particularly full of difficulty for students: they have to link macroscopic observations with unintuitive models of the sub-microscopic world. It’s your job to bridge that gap while addressing misconceptions.

Maybe you find you’re pretty good at communicating abstract concepts. But how about managing a class of 12-year-olds on a windy day? And how good are you at keeping your equilibrium when that one kid starts pushing your buttons?

Silhouette of superhero with sunset

Source: aslysun /

Beyond the science, you find you’re also thinking about embedding literacy and maths skills in your pupils’ work. You differentiate the curriculum for all of your classes, meeting the individual needs of 30 students at a time, while also considering accessibility and the needs of your SEND pupils. And you build and maintain pastoral relationships – acting as a coach, mentor and advisor to dozens of students.

What about professional development? Are you on top of current ‘best-practice’? Do you have the social science skills to read and understand education research? Do you have the time?

Not only do you need to be an expert in all these skills, you need to deliver on them under huge time and performance pressures.

And you’re pretty good at it! I’m sure there are skills you would like to develop more, and others you’d like to brush up on. But we can help a bit with that.

In this issue you’ll find updates on new developments in chemistry research, real-world context for the concepts you’re teaching, lesson ideas to try with your classes, and resources to save you time and effort. Also, as always, we translate the most useful results from chemistry education research for you and give you tips for trying out new teaching techniques with your pupils.

We have more support for you online at, including more teaching ideas and resources. Drop by sometime.

Welcome to the new year. I hope you feel like a superhero. You certainly deserve to.