Francesca on her love for Science

Voices - 17 September 2014

Francesca is currently in her final year of the Teach First NZ programme, teaching Chemistry/Science at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara, Auckland. In this blog entry, she tells us how her own fascination with Science began. 

“Let’s break some van der waal forces!” I proceeded to draw an amazing picture (scribble) with my graphite pencil. This was the beginning of my fascination with particles and the world of chemistry. I marvelled at how tiny particles that we cannot see can be used in so many different ways in our world. I wanted to know more.

This was all thanks to my Year 11 Chemistry teacher. She showed me how these tiny particles have changed our world today. I learned about why we get crusty “white stuff” on our kettle when we boil water over time; why diamond is so hard, yet graphite is so soft although they are both made of pure carbon. I gained an appreciation of the world at the particle level and banished age-old misconceptions. I was no longer writing with lead pencils (I never was to begin with), but instead I was leaving a trail of carbon atoms on my page. The knowledge was revolutionary! I was addicted. I learned to critique the chemicals around me and began to question the contents of common household items. She nurtured my curiosity while giving me the tools and structure to become an efficient learner.

While pursuing my degree in Chemistry, I stumbled upon several interesting education courses at university, and subsequently added education to my conjoint degree. These courses stretched my mind and got me thinking about my schooling and those who “do not make it”. I also came to realise the disconnect between those who thought science was only for the “smart and brainy ones” versus everyone. Through my tutoring jobs I realised my passion for learning, but my students were desperately trying to memorise facts rather than understand the inquisitive nature of science. I realised I wanted to help people see that everyone is a scientist and that science is a way of thinking, and finding answers to questions in a logical and methodical manner. Science is not only for the elites. I wanted to enable students to expose their inner scientist.

I stumbled upon Teach First NZ during the summer of 2011 in a newspaper article. Upon research of the programme, I realised I could combine my passion for helping people (in the absence of blood and guts) and my love for Chemistry. Furthermore, I was motivated by the opportunity to be part of a team of like-minded individuals, working towards a common goal of addressing educational inequality. The prospect to learn and enable my students to achieve their dreams, as my teacher had for me, was exciting. It was finally my turn.

I am certain the Teach First NZ programme is the most challenging thing I have done in my life. The weekends and sleepless nights of worrying about my lesson plans, student feedback, assessments to mark, reports to write and parents to contact have been relentless. However, when I think back on my students and their “light bulb moments”, and the debates we have in class about sustainability and the environmental implications of fossil fuels, I cannot help but smile.

Coming to the end of my two year programme, I feel grateful for the opportunities to learn so much and have gained a deeper understanding and connection with my country and my students who call this place home.