How to be a better technician

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What does it take to be a great Science technician?

It’s arguably easy for a teacher to know if they do a good job or not. Success is measured by the number of A or B Grade Students that pass their examinations or perhaps the number of awards or accolades that a school or teacher achieves during the course of the doing their job. Teachers also are heavily scrutinised by their own line management. They are regularly appraised and both line management and their school subjected to the close, regular & rigourous inspections of OFSTED

But how do technicians know if they do a good job? Any technician questioning his or her abilities may have wondered: “Am I a good technician?” or “What does my line management think of me?” and beyond, “How do I go from good to great?”

As a qualified manager I will approach helping you answer this problem in two ways. First of all you need to keep an open and curious mind at all times. You need to examine your own professional development as follows;


  • Outstanding technicians love what they do and take pride in their work. They have a willingness to help beyond their job description. They’re interested in the actual job, supporting the role of learning in education and keen to develop existing procedures or experiences and perhaps learn new ones. They are attentive to details and have a great work ethic.
  • Average technicians have a poor attitude, poor work satisfaction and “seem disinterested at times.”
  • Below average technicians have a poor attitude to the point of causing morale issues in their co-workers within the department.

It is suggested that technicians interested in getting better take more initiatives, work beyond their job description, take pride in their work and develop a desire to learn and excel.

Skills and abilities

  • Excellent technicians used their experience to anticipate what is required to do their job and do this well. They normally are proactive in their approach. They can work unsupervised and without too much formal instruction. They are efficient, adaptable and organized. They are team players who communicate well. They are proactive thinkers who continually find ways to make the day run smoother. “A good technician is like a personal assistant to the teaching profession who makes sure things are not overlooked.”
  • Average technicians normally are more reactive than proactive.

Suggestions to improve in this area include developing the ability to anticipate the needs of the teacher or their department, focus more on what is important, follow through, communicate and handle the pressure.


  • Outstanding technicians show initiative and are reliable. They are aware of department etiquette, school policies and procedures.
  • Average technicians “settle for mediocrity” (ie., ordinariness, commonplaceness). They can be caught day dreaming, wasting unnecessary time on the internet, watching the clock and gossiping.
  • Below average technicians regularly call in sick, are late to work or lie (sic). One technician I am aware of had a drinking problem. It affected both his time keeping and attendance. This is obviously a problem for other teaching staff and fellow colleagues who are relying upon him/her

Besides correcting obvious faults, in order to improve in this area, the technician should consider taking more initiatives and showing more attention to details.


  • Excellent technicians have extensive knowledge about “laboratory procedures & techniques, health and Safety, computers and IT, preproom management, use of instrumentation.” Normally these skills come with experience, training and if the right attitude is present.
  • The solution to develop the required knowledge seems therefore obvious: Regular appraisal of your performance by line management, Identification of CPD, having the right aptitude, maintaining the right attitude and being able to retain the information.


  • Outstanding technicians have a sense of humor and keep the environment fun. They are “cheerful, friendly, courteous, polite, enthusiastic and trustworthy.” They are hard-working and have a willingnes or a desire to help out.
  • Average technicians “have poor work ethics,” “have their own agenda” and are whiners (sic).
  • Below-average technicians are described as lazy, lacking integrity and reliability.

To adjust their attitude, it was suggested that technicians acquire the desire to exceed expectations, the ambition to do more than assisting and the initiative to go beyond minimum requirements.

Here are some of the experiences of Technicians (From the TecHKnow Forums area) Marionofsuburbiton

"CLEAPSS have a pro-forma Policy for Technician Service which you can personalise for your school so everyone knows what to expect and who does what. We use this and I give an updated copy to each member of the science department at the beginning of the each year. (...unfortunately I only know of one out of 18 teachers who have actually read it  :( )"

Joyce If, like us, you have a number of teachers with a variety of contracts it is quite difficult to keep all the balls in the air as sometimes you need to talk to teachers who are not there, for example when two teachers have ordered the equipment of which there is only one in the department. This is a fact of life, but something that is not always appreciated and may cause problems. The time taken to prepare practical work is also not always understood. As a result there are days when nothing goes particularly well and we are just happy to have survived. These hiccoughs are noted whereas the general smooth running is not. Occasionally the time and effort needed to produce practical work is appreciated which is nice.

You might find it useful to make lists of all equipment needed for each experiment, so that you can refer to it when putting the practical out, the amount of detail will probably diminish over time, but apart from that, if you are getting it right most of the time I think that is probably the norm.

Pam Do you have an appraisal scheme? If not request one! then at least you can have your say, issues will be documented and management SHOULD do something about it before the next appraisal.

We techs do take too much to heart at times especially when practicals do not give expected results, but heyho that science for you major discoveries that changed history happened because things didn't work!

When I first started in education, after coming in from industry, I wrote every thing down (pre the wonderfull CLEAPSS) from amount and type of glassware for each experiment to calculations for making up solutions, ratios, volumes, dilutions. I could then, when repeated a year later, look it up and know I was on the right track. I revised these in later years for students doing investigations. After 27 years in post and now part-time we now have those 'posters' laminated so the other tech or a newie has a quick guide.

I would suggest getting yourself onto some courses. I have found the ones run by Cleapss and the Science Learning Centres to be very good and excellent value for money. You will meet some other techs, learn some new things, have a fun day out and get yourself away from the 'bar stewards' who seem to be grinding you down quite successfully at the moment.

I have one teacher where nothing is ever good enough and two who are appreciative of anything I can do for them.

I have learnt to ignore him to be honest. I do the best I can from the information he gives me and if it's not good enough, he's not given me the right instruction. All my teachers do things totally differently and often change things from year to year too - so while I try to be a mind reader I am not and I make no apology for this.

--Ssmith 03:08, 19 June 2014 (MDT)