From Education to Engagement
Four months ago, I was a science teacher with a middle leadership position at, reportedly, one of the best (depending on your favourite metric) secondary schools in the country – but then I resigned. I’d had a great career ahead of me, I was a Head of House and had responsibility for the welfare of about 200 students. My students got good results in their exams and I loved – and still love – working with teenagers. So why make the impulsive/brave/stupid move to give it all up, and what for?
The day I resigned, I’d just sent in a job application for my first non-teaching role in years. The position I applied for was: “Public Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Manager (maternity cover)” at the Babraham Institute – but we’ll get to that in a minute (spoiler – I got the job!).
I am not alone in leaving the teaching profession; it’s a well-known and documented problem for UK education at the moment. I don’t feel negatively about teaching; it was a job that brought me considerable joy. At its core, teaching is an incredible and rewarding profession and I met some of the most dedicated and wonderful people during my time in the classroom. People that I hope will remain life-long friends. However, there are wider issues in UK education which mean that at schools – like the one where I taught – teacher wellbeing can suffer. For me that meant it was time to leave as an act of self-care.
But what on Earth made me think I could go from Secondary School teacher to managing the Public Engagement and Knowledge Exchange team at a world-renowned research institute? The particulars of the job asked for someone educated to a post-graduate level in a science discipline, experience of delivering Public Engagement and Science Communication activities to a range of age groups as well as someone who was flexible, adaptable to change and took an enthusiastic approach to a varied job. Tick, tick and tick! So far so good. However – much more than ticking the boxes – this was the job I wanted because of my passion for sharing science with others and my enthusiasm for the innovative way it’s done at the Babraham Institute.
Like me the Institute takes the approach that Public Engagement (PE) and Knowledge Exchange (KE) should be a two-way street. In one direction, our researchers educate audiences about their exciting, new research. In the other, both PE and KE can be fantastic mechanisms to inform that very research, to shape the questions being asked by scientists, and refine the methods being used. Poetically, this relationship forms a beautiful, positive feedback loop similar to the chemistry in the very cells that we study.
The PE and KE team have worked hard to produce a packed program of events this year and I’m excited to work with them to bring them to you. Some of the diverse activities on the calendar for 2019 include:
- Our 25thAnnual Schools’ Day on 6th March, giving school children and their teachers an opportunity to experience, learn and question the science of the Babraham Institute, right here in our labs.
- A pop-up Cell Signalling Escape Room (Cambridge Science Festival; 19th March).
- Our ‘Race against the Ageing Clock’ exhibit (Cambridge Science Festival; 16th- 17th March).
- A collaborative science and arts project (LifeLab 2019).
- We are hosting the Cambridge NIHR BioResource in order for staff at the Institute to find out more about being involved as a volunteer or making use of the facility in their research. (June 2019)
- Coordination of an international Public Dialogue on Genome Editing (September 2019).
- As well as many more visits to the Institute by community groups and local organisations. Get in touch to find out more about arranging a visit
Let me wrap up my brief hello by passing on my very best wishes to Tacita on behalf of the entire team. We wish her well on her maternity leave and look forward to meeting her new baby. I’m very grateful to be looking after such a brilliant team in her absence, particularly in such an exciting year for the Institute.
Please feel free to get in touch with us with any requests or to get involved in the Institute’s PE or KE activities this year.