September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 jrpomeroy@ucdavis.edu 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.

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.