A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Six
Posted: Saturday, February 26th, 2011
by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen
I decided to change up the format of the Sara and Ellen articles for this edition. Instead of me asking them questions, I thought it would be interesting to see what questions they might ask of me at this point in their first years of teaching. As you recall, Sara and Ellen were my students last year. Both have stayed in touch with me through these articles as well as through their work on their Masters of Arts projects this year. After reviewing their lists of questions, I have chosen four that I feel are representative of the kinds of questions many first year teachers may have. If any experienced teachers have additional comments or other ideas, I would encourage you to post them as comments in the new eCCS format or reply to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Sara and Ellen directly at SaraandEllen@gmail.com
1) Being employed by a school/district that uses (and overuses) common assessments, I have formed a very strong opinion against these assessments. What is your experience with common assessments and how do you feel about them?
Common assessments are yet another way to standardize the educational process under the assumption that if every student is given exactly the same curriculum, under exactly the same condition, they will learn exactly the same content, and therefore should perform equally well on a common assessment. Unfortunately, this is not the case in any classroom I have observed. What I would suggest is that teachers in a science department or teachers within science subject areas meet to identify the key, foundational concepts that are necessary for students to learn and decide what evidence would be required to demonstrate that learning. Based on this list, they would then agree on an array of acceptable ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of that content. These could definitely be aligned with the State Standards, and typical testing formats could be included as one method for demonstrating this understanding but they should not be the only way.
2) Everyone seems to have a first year teaching horror story. What is yours?
As a first year teacher I taught three different subjects in five different rooms. At one point in the year, I was assigned to teach sex education in one of the geography classrooms. At that time, one of the first lessons in the district adopted curriculum, was to write all of the slang terms associated with sex, anatomy, life style, etc. on the board so that the students could learn that slang terminology would not be appropriate for the remainder of the unit. After the class, I erased the board completely, loaded up my travelling teacher cart, and headed to my next room. Unfortunately, the teacher whose room I had just left felt that I should have washed her chalk boards before leaving to eliminate any possibility that her precious students, many of whom were in the class I had just taught and who may have contributed the terms for the board, might see these offensive terms. Soooooo, she called me in my classroom and demanded that I return to her room immediately and wash the boards in front of her class. Needless to say, I was extremely embarrassed by this treatment. The only thing that made it ok was that the next day, the students in my class told me how embarrassed they were for me to be treated that way. In the end, I survived to teach 19 more years in that district and she retired at the end of that year.
3) You have been a teacher and administrator. What were the pros and cons to both? Which did you enjoy more?
Over the years, I have come to realize that I am a classroom junkie. I get my energy and define what I do by thinking about and applying my work to classrooms. With that said, I must admit that I enjoyed my time as an administrator because it gave me a larger number of classrooms to visit. As the principal, I got to see all of the classes at the small high school where I worked. Instead of just knowing what was happening in the science classes, I got to see math and English and art as well. I did not particularly enjoy dealing with all of the bureaucracy nor did I like having to deal with students who made bad choices. My time as a principal gave me a much richer understanding of not only the breadth of the high school curriculum but of the expectations for the students as well.
4) I have been fortunate to have supportive friends, family, and coworkers, that have prevented me from feeling like I’m drowning, but I know that some beginning teachers don’t have that same support. What do you suggest to beginning teachers that feel like they are drowning?
This is a tough question. I must say that every year, I enjoy the experience of seeing my student teachers from the previous year at the California Science Education Conference. When I ask them how it is going, the universal response is “I am so tired!” Teaching, particularly in your first few years, is exhausting. When you get tired, it is easy to feel overwhelmed which can lead to feeling depressed. None of these feelings are any fun. What I always suggest first is that you should keep forcing yourself to have some fun. Do the kinds of things you did for fun before you started your student teaching. Second, spend time planning. Make sure you are planned for the next day before you leave each night (and this includes Fridays). Third, get to know the people you teach with. Particularly, any other new teachers at your school even if they teach in a different subject area. Build a new support group. Go out together for dinner or a movie, find some things that you both enjoy and try doing some of them. In the end, you have to balance your emotional health and your professional health. It is very easy to let one get out of whack at the expense of the other. Work hard to keep this in balance. Finally, give up the tyranny of the dream. Come to grips with the idea that every day cannot be a write home to mom, day. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Learn from those days when things don’t go the way you expect and vow to never do the same thing again.
Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis, and is CSTA’s president-elect.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…