The art of science

Claire Green

I did like chemistry at school, but I liked all the science subjects, and maths. I was definitely a scientist, not an artist. I liked the fact that all those subjects were like puzzles and about solving problems. There was an answer to be found and all I had to do was work out what it was, or how to find it.

I decided to do chemistry at college because I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I wanted to do, and I enjoyed the logic of it. At college I got into organic chemistry, which is the chemistry of carbon. All living things have carbon, and all chemicals that contain carbon will join together. It really is the building block of life and I liked that.

I went to an all-girls school, so there wasn’t anything strange about girls doing science. From a personal point of view, I think I did much better at school than I would have done if there had been boys around. It’s just one less thing to think about. You can see it in the students I teach now, especially the older ones, that they might be thinking about what they’re looking like in front of the others.

Having said that, I’d like to think we’ve gone beyond the stage where people think there are subjects for girls and subjects for boys. The school I work in specialises in performing arts, so it’s not unusual to see boys singing and dancing. Maybe that helps, but I don’t get a sense of girls thinking science isn’t for them. We have some really good female scientists and mathematicians.

I didn’t start teaching straight away, even though it was something I considered at college. My mum’s a teacher and while she didn’t exactly tell me horror stories, her experiences did make me think carefully about it. Instead, I worked in a bank in London for three years. I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to move out of London and I missed chemistry.

For me, it was the right decision. I’ve never looked back. I wouldn’t say my life is stress-free now - teaching isn’t a stress-free job - but it’s a different kind of stress. I get more out of work now and I enjoy it so much more.

(Claire Green teaches chemistry at Queen Elizabeth school in Kirby Lonsdale, Lancashire)