May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Eight

Posted: Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

As the year draws to a close, I decided to ask Sara and Ellen the kinds of questions that every teacher educator asks their students at the end of the year. I wanted them to reflect on their first year of teaching with an eye to some of the successes that they had. At this time of year, new teachers are often caught up in testing, pink slips, and exhaustion. It has been my experience that they lose site of the reasons that they went into this business in the first place. I think Sara and Ellen’s responses hold a lot of interest for those of you who have been following their development over the year and for those of us who wish them the best in years 2-30. I don’t think anyone could sum up the impact that teachers have on others better than Ellen has in her last comment.

Here are the questions I asked and their responses:

1) What was the most valuable thing you learned during your first year of teaching?

Sara: I learned more about my own teaching style and what policies I want to have in place in my own classroom. Student teaching is the time to get ideas and enforce the policies of your cooperating teacher and, this year, you don’t have that person watching over your shoulder ready to catch you if you make a mistake. I was able to develop my own routine as a teacher on my own and I think it is something that I will be able to develop further every year.

Ellen: The most valuable thing I learned this year is how to balance all of the responsibilities of teaching. BTSA did prove to be a hard assignment because I wanted to spend quality time completing assignments, and truly reflecting on my teaching practices. However, this got in the way of spending quality time planning lessons and incorporating valuable activities into them. Also, the balance between covering all the material that the state of California would like you to and truly teaching advanced skills such as critical thinking and problem solving proved to be difficult. I cannot wait to have the summer to prepare lessons that can achieve both of these important goals in education.

2) If you could do this year over again, what would you do differently?

Sara: I definitely had a few students this year that really made me stress, but now I have a much better grasp as to how to deal with those types of students. This entire year was a learning process, and I don’t think I would change any of it. Instead, I plan to implement everything I have learned into my classroom next year.

Ellen: As far as management and discipline, I have worked out a good system to deal with tardies/behavior issues, etc. It took a semester to work it out due to finding things that I truly care about (late work, tardies, absences, etc.) I am excited to implement this at the beginning of the year and see what a difference it will make.

3) What recommendations can you make to students who are completing their credential programs this spring and heading out into their own classrooms for the first time in the fall?

Sara: Ask as many questions as you can, even if you think they are silly questions. Wherever you end up, the staff will understand that you have a lot of questions, and from my experience, they will be helpful in answering them. However, they might forget to tell you important information because they assume everyone knows what they are talking about. If you don’t know, just ask. Also, make sure to plan! Some teachers are able to just walk into a classroom and come up with a lesson plan off the top of their head. As a first year teacher, you won’t be able to do that and you will be very busy, so make sure you are at least two days ahead of lesson plans, and a lot of your stress could be cut in half.

Ellen: I think it is important for students entering education to align their practices with the teaching styles and rules of the school they are entering. If they have collaborative assessments make sure to see them beforehand if possible. Also, try to find out all the “tricks” before school starts, such as: emergency practices/drills information, staff meeting norms, teachers around you that you can trust, and some one in the administration building you feel comfortable talking with about any issues you might be having (with students, etc). This information really came in handy this year during drills and meetings for me.

4) What was one memorable moment from this past year that you will carry with you next year and into the future?

Sara: The most important thing to me is to build a good relationship with my students. I am not afraid to show my personality when I am teaching and allow my students to really know who I am. My students know that I am a nerd at heart, I hate country music, and I love NASCAR. Because of this, students feel more comfortable with me. I have had students tell me that they enjoy my class because I’m normal to them. If they need someone to talk to, they feel comfortable coming to me. Because my students really know me, I have a much better understanding of them because they aren’t afraid to show who they are in my classroom. Getting this positive feedback from my students this year made me realize that while it is important to me to let my students see my personality, it is also important to the students.

Ellen: I have a strict policy about students using appropriate language that is respectful to all subcultures. Because of the area in which I teach, this was a difficult policy with which to follow through. I am very sensitive to the ever-popular, yet horrible student sayings such as “that’s gay” and the use of the “N” word. However, each time [I hear it] I have a system in place to deal with such language. So, a few weeks ago, a very quiet student who hasn’t really talked to me much approached me after class. She exclaimed, “You are the first person to ever care when students say ‘that’s gay’. I so appreciate that. It makes me think you care about everyone’s feelings.” and hugged me. I never thought that my actions on these sayings would affect someone that much. So I learned you never know who you affect by what you say/do or allow in your classroom. This was a very valuable lesson for me about small things you can do to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

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

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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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.