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 and is a past-president of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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