November/December 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 2

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

Posted: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

Sara and Ellen: California Science Education Conference Reflections

Now that the 2010 California Science Education Conference has been put to bed, I thought it would be informative to ask Sara and Ellen about their experiences in Sacramento.  Both attended the conference in Sacramento, and both have some important things to say about their experiences.

Rick: What was the most beneficial thing you gained by attending?

Ellen: The most beneficial part of the CSTA conference was the resource room.  The workshops are also amazing, but to have hundreds of resource tables in rows ready, willing, and able to help all science teaching disciplines was wonderful.  I was able to get many free gifts such as: class sets of periodic tables, maps and posters, lesson plans, and lab equipment.  I also came in contact with many vendors who could help suggest different laboratories for classrooms and email lists to join.

Sara: I really enjoyed walking through the exhibit hall and getting a bunch of free and informative resources.  I walked away with class sets of periodic tables, posters, and lesson plans.  It’s so nice to be able to get these types of things without paying for them.  I feel like I am always spending money for my classroom, and it’s a relief to get a bit of it for free.  I also like looking at the commercial vendors because, though I am not really in a position to buy anything, I could still adapt their ideas to my own classroom.

Rick: Was there one workshop that you found most helpful for your first year of teaching?

Ellen: Although many were helpful, the most helpful workshop was the keynote speaker on evolution.  Evolution is the part of the biology curriculum that is difficult to teach for many reasons.  Students still do not grasp the conceptual knowledge needed to fully understand evolution and the science behind the evidence of evolution.  Also, many students have so many misconceptions before the unit, it can be a hard instructional unit to plan.  The speaker gave great tips on how to teach evolution and showed teachers how to focus on the macroevolution versus the microevolution that is most common in public schools today.  Overall, he was a great speaker, gave great resources, and had incredible ideas.

Sara: The workshop that I found most helpful was “Bell to Bell Engagement” by Maryanne Tornquist.  She gave us a lot of short and simple strategies for reviewing material and increasing participation.  I really needed that because I needed some fresh ideas that I could turn to for my natural science classes.  It was also beneficial because the attendees had a group discussion to get even more ideas.

Rick: As the conference committee for 2011 begins planning sessions, what suggestions can you make for the kinds of workshops or presentations that would be most helpful to new teachers?

Ellen: There were already so many helpful workshops offered this year! However, if I could add more workshops or presentations, I would like to have more laboratory or demonstrations for the classroom.  I feel I have seen so many repetitive ones over the years, and it would be great to have new, fresh ideas.  Also, more presentations and workshops that are designed to aid ELL students would be great.  There are probably many great techniques that I have not encountered yet, and I would love the help!

Sara: Personally, I would have liked to have seen some more demonstrations and laboratory activities in the workshops.  Ideally, I would like to see  someone show me one good (and fairly unique) demonstration for each major topic in chemistry.  New teachers don’t need to go to a workshop on how to teach English Language Learners; they just learned that in their credential program.  New teachers need good ideas for lesson plans on specific topics.

Rick: How can we reach out to new teachers to encourage them to attend the conference and participate in CSTA?

Ellen: I think the best way to communicate with new teachers is by email or flyers for the schools.  Being a new teacher is so difficult and busy, you feel like there is no way you can sacrifice your limited time.  I think new teachers need to be reminded that it is good to work on their practice by interacting with other teachers and developing their teaching techniques.  Finally, I think a friendly reminder of the resources (equipment, lesson plans, etc) available is a great way to target new teachers

Sara: Many of the teachers in my department did not even seem to know what CSTA was.  I think sending out flyers to schools would be the best method of reaching out.  E-mails can be easily deleted or redirected to spam, but a flyer is always looked at.  Because I am in southern California, I am definitely planning on attending next year’s conference in Pasadena, and I think I may be able to get some of my department to attend as well.  I think CSTA would be wise to focus on the geographical region that the conference will be held in because, obviously, it will be easier for those teachers to attend.

Rick: As new teachers, it is easy to think that conferences are places to get new ideas, but as the 2010 conference chair, I would encourage new teachers to get involved from the very start of their careers by submitting proposals for workshops of their own.  It might be a new strategy that they are using or something that would support other new teachers.  The most important thing is that it is teachers offering professional development opportunities for other teachers.  If you are considering submitting a proposal for the Pasadena conference, now is the time.  Short course proposals are in January, with workshop proposals due in mid-March.

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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