MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What exactly does a chemistry teacher's work involve?

Date: Tue Sep 12 01:24:14 2000
Posted By: Greta Hardin, Secondary School Teacher, Science
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 968273579.Ch

Ashley - 

There are two main things you need to be a chemistry teacher.  First, a love 
of science, all science.  Chemistry (as you may have discovered) is not an 
isolated science.  To understand it well, and appreciate it for all it's 
complexity, a good understanding of biology and even some physics will 
become nescessary.   Personally, I started out most interested in biology, 
but as I got to know biology better, I started to use a lot of chemistry, 
and became intensely interested in that science.  All of a sudden I found 
myself teaching not only chemistry but advanced placement (AP) chemistry as 
The second thing you need is a love of teaching.  You must like, no, love 
sharing information with other people about things.  Patience, empathy and a 
deep understanding of what you are talking about will all be needed to 
support your efforts to share what you know.

So what does a chemistry teacher do?
Well a little bit of what I do is presenting the material to the students... 
what you think of when you think of what teachers do.  However, most of my 
time is spent reviewing information and organizing it to present it to the 
students, coming up with ways to review the information, creating tests and 
grading all the work I give out.  I also spend a fair bit of time putting 
together labs.  Choosing which ones to do, testing labs to make sure they 
work (you'd be surprised how many labs teachers have to tweak to get them to 
work in their own lab!!!), and figuring out ways to make them work with the 
chemicals, space, equipment, and time I have.
Overall very little of the time is actually spent doing experiments.  
However, my joy in the job is in watching students understand just a bit of 
all this wonderful information I have, and opening them up to the world of 
science I see and enjoy all the time.

Now what you need to do to become a chemistry teacher is take lots of 
science classes, in Middle School, High School and especially College.  
There are two ways to go in order to become a teacher - get your bachelors 
in science (biology, chemistry, physics) and then go to graduate school for 
an education degree.  Or you can do a double degree in college, work on your 
science degree and you teaching certification at the same time.  You can 
also go straight into teaching after getting a science degree if you go into 
teaching at private (non-state) schools.  This is what I did... and the 
first year is a bit rough - but it will be no matter how you get into 
teaching.  As for grades - well you should do well, but most of all you 
should really be enjoying the classes.  If you don't enjoy the information 
when you have to learn it, you won't have any fun teaching it!

Good Luck in your career search!  Overall, keep your mind open to all the 
possibilities you will encounter!

Greta Hardin

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