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Katherine Richard, High School Science Teacher in Oxford, on Teaching

May 7, 2012

We asked Katherine to share some of her thoughts about teaching — best practices and fun facts. Read below to learn more about her teaching style:

Three words that represent your teaching persona

lively, quirky, expectations

Why teach? Or, how did you become a teacher?

I was doing my doctorate and started teaching undergraduates on the side to earn extra money. I quickly discovered that this was more fun than research! I finished my doctorate and started my teacher training straight away and have never looked back!


What would you be if not a teacher?

Police woman

What do you do to optimize student engagement in class?

Fast pace, quirky demos or applications, colourful materials.

A textured lesson – visually, spatial, etc., is essential. Are the kids writing, drawing, cutting, watching, listening, comparing ideas, doing a practical, trying maths out for themselves, etc.?

Circulation is important – I recommend having a slide changer with laser pen!

Coffee, tea, or caffeine-free?

Tea before 11am, Coffee after.

Describe your classroom management style (including a few best practices) in a few sentences.

I’m quite strict and operate a stick then cake rather than carrot then stick policy. I place a lot of emphasis on their ownership of the learning space, of their own work and of their learning in general: notice boards, pencil pots, AfL sheets, stickers.

Best practice: AfL sheets on the front of their books to record all their grades, targets, comments etc. Personalised stickers and commendation slips.

Favorite Cartoon/TV/Movie Teacher

Snoopy/Frasier/Mr Black from School of Rock

Favorite Book (to read or to teach)

Feynman Lectures / Physics for You

Is teaching a science or art? Explain.

Both. You think you know the subject and they throw a googly at you. You plan the lesson to the last detail, which incorporates everything in the teaching text books (that’s the science) and then they walk in, grumpy or tired, and the art is now is adapting your teaching style to motivate them. Your job is never done – I get the impression that even after teaching a topic for 25 years, you can still walk out of a lesson knowing that it wasn’t the best that you could have delivered. That’s what makes teachers so special – they persevere, they reflect constantly on their own work, and they are endlessly creative.

Describe your process of preparing a lesson.

1) Look at the learning objectives required

2) Think about suitable demos and experiments

3) Work out the overriding theme to the lesson – ie) style or particular skills imbedded e.g. revision techniques or maths support 

4) Are there some good video clips, quirky examples that can liven up the topic

5) Do I have the right worksheets and other materials.

6) Head to BL for ideas …

How do you fit differentiation into your lessons?

Some students have difficulties with maths and I either pair them up with a better student or segregate them to enable good circulation of the weakers ones – before remixing the seating plan asap.

I expect all students to reach the same bar. For those who are slow writers/drawers I can print out SMART pages.

Who was your favorite teacher as a student? Why?

My geography teacher – she had every lesson prepared on OHP slides. She was SO organised and her writing was no neat!

Which teacher do you admire most and what makes him/her a great teacher?

My DPhil supervisor. He made me realise that science is not about learning but about understanding and making connections. He had the ability to work out things that he had never thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of for years, and get the correct conclusion.

What makes a teacher effective?

One who isn’t tired. We all work too hard.


P.S. You can check out Katherine’s science course materials here:

MCS Year 7 Chemistry

MCS Year 8 Chemistry

MCS Year 8 Physics

MCS Year 9 Physics

AS Physics

A2 Physics







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