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Reflections from a train

Saturday 8 September 2018

The train back to London from a weekend in Durham seems like as good a time as any to write my first blog post. After all, I was up to visit my younger brother (proud moment!) who is doing PhD research on gravity and will shortly pass Woolsthorpe Manor of Newton fame. As I type I can spy power stations and a smattering of wind turbines all around, which reminds me of the Energy Sources lessons coming up with the Upper Sixths next week and a nice mock Oxbridge question about why cooling towers are tall.

So what to tell you about me? I grew up in Northern Ireland having been born in England of Irish parents – the eligibility for multiple passports might just ease the challenges of the Brexit transition! I moved across to study Chemical Engineering (so I’m not very good at Waves or Particles) via Natural Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. My favourite alumnus there has got to be Thomas Young. In fact, I devoted 5 minutes to him in a recent assembly on ‘Learning’, prompted by a conversation with a student whose HL subjects were Physics, Latin and Greek, which revealed that he had been a leader in deciphering the Rosetta Stone (when not busy developing a modulus and playing with light). These polymathic attributes would surely have leant him towards the IB, had he the chance!

While still at Cambridge, I took up teaching via a PGCE under the brilliant instruction of Elaine Wilson and James de Winter and swiftly moved to London, where I taught for a few years at a large mixed academy. The experience of teaching Sixth Form classes of 15+ with one or no girls is what has prompted a lot of my educational research, and I was delighted to hear about the benefits of diversity in research groups this week with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s donation of prize money to the Institute of Physics. I’m hoping to share some of my own exciting news on this topic soon – watch this space…

But before I get too carried away about the virtues of delivering good physics education to disadvantaged groups, I should confess to now teaching only relatively well-off boys at Whitgift School. It helps that I love the place, with its peacocks, maze and excellent staff and students, and it’s also where I started teaching the IB. I first met Chris as a participant at a Category 3 workshop on the use of ICT and I made sure to mention that I’m related to a world-class female lead climber! Since then we’ve collaborated on running workshops and I’ve been let loose on editing aspects of the Study IB student site (tell your students – it’s still free!).

My first big job is to reorganise some of the brilliant resources you have in front of you – making it easier to locate the unit planner, teaching notes, practical work, student activities and questions on a topic by topic basis. This might take require some patience over the coming couple of months, but we’ll try to ensure that nothing goes offline without warning you. You can also continue to set work using Student Access as the page links aren’t affected even when moved.  And don’t worry – Chris is still firmly in charge!

There are tunnels ahead (literal, that is) so I’ll sign off for now. But I look forward to meeting some of you in Barcelona this November and hope to post an update soon.


Tags: cambridge, gravitation, gravity, young's modulus, young's slits

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