I chose the MEd as a step toward my lifelong ambition of working overseas.
Born to ex-pat parents in Venezuela, a country with enormous wealth but also extreme poverty, I was aware that I was privileged from an early age. After returning to the UK, I completed my secondary education and set my sight on a science degree. Even at eighteen I held the view that there are things that are more valuable than money and although giving funds to the poor has its place, it would be better for me to give my time. VSO seemed a clear route to pursue and that remained my ambition throughout my first degree. In my final year, the application was dispatched with the rider that I would do anything but teach, because I thought I would be a rubbish teacher. I was rejected.
After being employed for 7½ years in medical research, I took time out to have a family. When both my children started school I realised that I would not be comfortable being a stay-at-home Mum and searched round for something to do. I had always sworn I would never be a teacher. Twenty years down the line, what I now realise is that my issues and concerns were not actually with teaching but with class management. So, dear reader, I became a teacher of Chemistry (rather than Biology, because in chemistry you can blow things up) and with some up and downs, actually quite enjoyed it.
However, I still felt I had missed out on working overseas. It became clearer that many people were taking time at the end of their careers rather than the beginning to have their “gap year” and this actually might be more useful. My ambition remained with me.
After 17 years working in one school, I took time out and used a small legacy to fund a year back in University doing the MEd. I found the whole course very stimulating, partly because it complemented and developed my pre-existing views, but at the same time also often challenged them. During a MEd session on “educational quality” one of my fellow students from Southern Sudan made me think about the importance of identifying the role of education in the environment in which a teacher is working.
As part of the MEd, I went on a trip to Botswana researching attitudes to science education and in January 2010, I travelled from a snowy UK to Dodoma, the capital city of Tanzania. There is simply not enough space here to tell you about the next 2½ years, except to say that I ended up teaching in the new Masters of Education Degree course at St John’s University of Tanzania. I would love to find a way to help Tanzanian teachers develop their skills in line with their facilities and the country’s need, especially in the study of Science. I was very grateful to have the experience of the course, at the Graduate School of Education, with its wide intake of many nationalities.