May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.