It is nearly a year since the chem ed community were confronted by a article by Charles Harrison in EiC which made us all think about the nature of our little corner of chemistry. This post was widely discussed amongst us at the 2016 ViCEPHEC conference in Southampton. I have only been part of the scene for six years or so and I like to think I have encouraged others, especially secondary teachers, to become part of the chem ed scene. For those who want an insight into why chem ed is such a special place to be the following points might be helpful….
Chem ed is diverse. We’re teachers and lecturers (who are also teachers), some of us are chemistry education researchers. There are also people who would be traditionally seen as ‘research focused’ PIs in the purest sense, maintaining interests in chem ed alongside running large research groups in their specialist areas. Some amongst us are very well known, others of us are happy with our little niche. We don’t have many big egos to contend with and even if they surface from time to time we’re pretty tolerant. It doesn’t take much to become ‘one of us’.
Chem ed people have multiple specialisms. You can be chem ed and an organic chemist or chem ed and a primary education specialist. Being part of chem ed compliments rather than detracts from our other teaching foci. I am a better organic chemistry tutor in UG, a better foundation chemistry tutor, a better KS3 and A level chemistry teacher because I am also part of chem ed.
Lots of us tweet, this means that we often feel we know people long before we actually know them in person. (I remember getting a tweet from Michael Seery at ViCEPHEC in Liverpool telling me to introduce myself so he didn’t have to go round looking at people’s upper torsos! Some of us also blog and write articles on our own sites and for publications like Education in Chemistry. We put ourselves out there, discussing and defending our opinions and considering those of others.
Chem ed has a true community feel, it is friendly not competitive. Behind the scenes of the outputs presented at confences there are lots of small interactions. Some are informal meetings held in coffee shops where off topic chatter is interspersed with talking shop. Emails, texts and Twitter DMs fly around the ether with people bouncing ideas off each other. We share expertise willingly, drafts of research papers are exchanged over email along with suggestions for further work. If someone is finding it tough or falls seriously ill then postcards of encouragement and get well soon cards wing their way across the country. When awards are announced hearty congratulations abound, publicly and privately sent but always with sincere feeling.
So, come and join us in chem ed…. look out for announcement of face to face meetings, follow a few hashtags and get a feel for whether this could be a place you could also belong to…