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Foto: Oscar Sjöstrand

Roger Lister is one of the harshest, most unforgiving of all teachers of our school vii-arr-jee jiursholm. If you name that carbon chain incorrectly, he unleashes the deepest and most terrifying fury one could ever imagine fitting inside the walls of a tiny chemistry classroom. Thunder raining across the skies…I digress. Roger Lister is really just a nice guy. His time at VRG started as early as ‘97, and one might guess he enjoys it here. Like with all teachers, there’s usually a reason that they become just that – teachers. If not, that’s a shame.


How did you start out as a teacher?

I kind of fell into teaching, after I finished my chemistry / physics degree, I was looking for things to do. Teaching was one of those things I considered because I had nothing better to do.


But you find it fun, obviously.

Yeah, once I was into it, I felt it was the most fantastic job possible! It felt like I was still at university. In a way – I never really left. Teaching really doesn’t feel like a job – like one day I have to grow up and get a job. I’ve been teaching in the school since ’97 now, here at VRG.


Have you seen any changes since then?

Change? Well, there’s always change. I mean, most of the staff has changed, there’s only myself and one or two others who were there when I started. But that’s kind of good and bad, in a way. I don’t feel the students have changed much over time – they’ve always been very demanding.


So, have you worked anywhere else?

I worked at a school in Denmark for a year, before I started here. I never taught in Danish, it would be an impossible language – especially for an Englishman. And I also worked for a school in the states.


What about that tattoo of yours?

I think it’s a part of going through a 40 year old crisis, part the reason is I’ve been wanting to have a tattoo – and one that means something to me…rather than having just my childrens’ names or something like that. The atom I’ve got is lithium – and lithium; Li, is like Lister. I think it’s good to wait until you’re 40 to get a tattoo – because then you’re really sure.



Is teaching still as rewarding as it was years ago – and what’s the great appeal?

Absolutely. Students here – I feel, really want to know – to learn. In many schools – half the job is controlling the class. When you don’t have to deal with that, you can focus on the teaching. I really enjoy teaching, I come into school every day and I feel really lucky. Like I can’t believe they’re really paying me for this. Some people come into work and watch the clock – I never do that.


Any memorable chemistry happenings at school?

Last year I set off the fire alarm and evacuated the whole building. I was burning magnesium, and I hadn’t noticed there was a fire alarm in the ceiling. I usually do it in the dragskåp. There’s also the ester lab we do each year – with the smörsyra…it smells really bad.


When you smell the smörsyra…do you have to do like this (viftar med handen som någon som luktar på vin men inte vet vad hen pratar om) or is it enough to just open it?

It’s just enough to…to open the bottle.


Is there anything your students have taught you, that you couldn’t have learned outside the classroom?

Students have taught me? (surprised) Every week I learn new things about my subject that I didn’t know before. And often, that comes from students asking questions. It’s amazing how I can be teaching for 15 years, and even then I’ll have a student raise a hand ask a question and I go, “Oh, I haven’t thought about that!”. That’s part of the joy of teaching – you learn as well.


Have any tips for your chemistry students?

I love my chemistry students – you can tell them that. Regarding the test? I think they should get a good night’s sleep, because I think people underestimate that. I also think they should remember to bring their blue data book, very important. They shouldn’t be too stressed, find a way to minimize it!


What’s your technique – your anti-stress?

For some reason, I’m still a little bit nervous while presenting to teachers – and I can’t explain why. I’m never nervous in front of students. But I find, that if I have a cup of coffee in my hand – I’m suddenly less stressed. Somehow, the act of holding the coffee – even though it’s a stimulant – it shouldn’t calm me down, it does!


Ending with those timeless words of wisdom, I close my interview with one of the school’s veteran teachers. And as they say, if something closes – another thing must open. (alright, maybe they don’t say that, but I’m opening my chemistry book either way.) In the next issue, I’ll be interviewing some other teacher. Who? I haven’t decided. Cheers!

Oscar Sjöstrand