September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: A Play in 10 parts

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

This article is the first in a series of monthly articles following the first year of teaching for Sara and Ellen.  Throughout the year, you will see the challenges each face in their new careers in very different schools, one in northern California and one in southern California. The content of the articles will be a conversation, including their responses to my questions and hopefully your comments to them through email.  If you would like to send them comments, please address those to saraandellen@gmail.com.  Due to space limitations, your comments will be summarized in the following month’s column.

Rick: Sara and Ellen, why did you decide to pursue a career in science teaching?

Sara: Teaching has always been something that I have been interested in.  I was a tutor throughout high school and felt that I was able to explain things more clearly than some of my teachers.  In high school, I found myself loving a subject that many of my peers loathed: chemistry.  I decided to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in chemistry because it was the one subject that I was both interested in and felt that I would enjoy doing on a daily basis.  Going into college, I had my heart set on being a forensic chemist, but I quickly realized that working in a lab all day would not make me happy.  I decided to do a teaching internship in a high school chemistry classroom and found that I really enjoyed helping kids learn about a subject that I fell in love with.  That internship was the final push for me to become a science teacher.

Ellen: I decided to pursue a career in science teaching for a few reasons.  Throughout my life, I have always had a passion for science, so naturally, I excelled in science in college and received a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior.  During my undergraduate years, I worked in a biotechnology lab where we traveled to local schools and directed high school students through different laboratories.  These teaching experiences paired with eight years of teaching dance at local studios to students of all ages led me to my decision of pairing my two loves: science and teaching.

Rick: Please tell me a little bit about the subjects you will be teaching this year and the schools where you are teaching.

Sara: I am teaching at a comprehensive high school in southern California.  The school has over 2,800 enrolled students, with 10 percent English language learners and 35 percent qualifying for free or reduced price lunch.  The school is relatively new, with the upcoming school year being just its fifth academic year.  The bell schedule is an alternating block schedule, where one day the students attend three of their classes for two hours each, then the next day the other three classes.  I will be teaching three sections of natural science, which is designed mainly for sophomores who are not quite ready to take chemistry.  I will also be teaching two sections of general chemistry, designed for sophomores.  The students all take biology or life science as freshmen.

Ellen: I will be teaching at a traditional high school located in northern California.  It has been classified as a Program Improvement school.  This school serves a diverse population, including families with a wide range of educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Approximately 1,800 students attend this school, and over thirty languages are spoken on campus.  The two significant languages that are spoken on campus, other than English, are Spanish and Russian.

The school is on a 4×4 block schedule, meaning students attend four 90-minute classes a semester.  Each teacher teaches three of the four classes; the remaining period is a prep-period.  I will be teaching two college-prep chemistry courses and one Principles of Biomedicine course each semester.

Rick: What is your biggest concern about starting your first year of teaching?

Sara: My biggest concern is adjusting to the alternating block schedule.  My high school and the school where I student taught were both on the traditional six classes a day schedule.  I used an entire curriculum that was designed for one-hour classes.  Therefore, I will need to alter many of my lesson plans to make sure that I am able to keep my students engaged and moving forward for the entire two hours of class.

Ellen: I am in a unique position because the school where I am teaching this year is also the school where I did my student teaching assignments, so I believe my concerns are less than that of other new teachers.  That being said, my biggest concern about starting my first year of teaching is incorporating science inquiry-based lessons into a direct instruction system that is in place at this school.  However, most of the science staff are very supportive of this style of teaching, so I hope that the department will all move towards the inquiry-based science lessons.

Author’s Note: Due to the production schedule of eCCS, these articles will be written about a month prior to publication.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Hey, very nice article. Can’t wait to hear more.

    R

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LATEST POST

CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.