September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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

Posted: Monday, November 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

Now that the school year is well underway, I thought it would be interesting to hear from Sara and Ellen about their experiences with their induction programs (BTSA).  If you are a BTSA provider or mentor, please consider sending some comments to Sara and Ellen at

Rick: Sara and Ellen, California credentialing regulations require that to earn a clear credential, you must participate in a two-year induction program. Most school districts offer this through BTSA. Have you had an opportunity to participate in an induction program this year? If you have, how has it helped?

Sara: I have started the BTSA process and I am already a couple months into it.  If I am being completely honest, I have yet to see how BTSA will help me.  So far, the assignments have not been helpful and, I believe, have actually taken up valuable time that I could be spending planning lessons.  Much of it seems like a complete repeat of all the work I put in during my student teaching year and that is very frustrating for me.  My BTSA support provider (who is also the only one for about 60 teachers) has told us that you can only get out of BTSA what you put in.  Unfortunately, as a first-year teacher, much of my effort is focused elsewhere.

Ellen: At my school of employment, the teachers are required to participate in BTSA.  We have only had one meeting, but I believe I have a good feel about the way the program works.  Unfortunately, the program is a little disorganized in my district, so people do not know when the meetings are or where they take place.  However, the organization aside, I can see some positive aspects of the program.  The most helpful part of BTSA is the meetings with the induction groups.  This allows me to debrief with other teachers about my experiences and frustrations in the classroom.  It is nice to have that support offered on a weekly basis by someone who has taught for years.  On the other hand, the assignments are not as helpful because they are so time-consuming, and they are very similar to the dreaded checklist of every program.  Overall, I feel the program’s assignments take valuable time away from planning lessons but that the debrief sessions are extremely helpful.

Rick: What part of this experience has been the most helpful and why do you think that is the case?  What would help more?

Sara: I believe that getting time to simply get ideas from other people would be much more helpful than the long and uninformative meetings that we must endure.  I feel best when I am able to talk to someone else about their ideas and methods because, though I am fresh out of a credential program, there are still plenty of strategies that I have yet to learn about.  Every teacher has their own unique methods, and I would rather spend the BTSA meetings finding out about them or planning lessons that incorporate some of those ideas.  I believe that would be the most helpful and valuable way to spend my time.

Ellen: As stated above, the most helpful part of the BTSA experience is the meetings.  Being in a new environment and having a new job can be tough and at times makes you feel isolated.  The meetings allow for time to talk about frustrations weekly, so emotions are not bottled up.  The first year of teaching is considered to be the hardest, so the meetings allow for support and emotional growth throughout the year.  As for what would help more, if we were assigned about half of the work, and spent more time on those assignments, I feel I would get something out of each assignment.  At this point, there are so many tasks to tackle, it seems unmanageable and ridiculous.  If BTSA stressed quality of assignments over quantity and the checklist idea, I feel many more teachers would benefit from the induction program.

Rick: What question would you like to ask experienced teachers about what to expect between November and the end of the first semester?  (Experienced teachers may send responses to

Sara: During my student teaching, the school ended its first semester in mid-January.  The school I am currently at ends its semester in December, right before the holiday break.  What are experiences that other teachers have about the differences in when these semesters end, and are there any issues that I should be aware of/prepared for?

Ellen: I teach on a block schedule similar to college semesters, where students take four classes from August to January, and then switch to four new classes from January to June.  I am very pressed for instructional time and have to push students through material.  Does anyone have any good/bad experiences giving work to students over Thanksgiving and winter breaks?  Does anyone recommend assigning work or is it just a lost cause?  I am struggling with what to expect of high school chemistry students.  Any feedback would be great.

Rick: I want to thank both Sara and Ellen for being frank and open with their comments.  BTSA is a statewide program that will undoubtedly be implemented differently in different districts, and I think we can see that happening here.  I appreciate their efforts to participate in their BTSA programs and encourage our members to join in the types of conversations that they say are most helpful to them.  In their responses to the final prompt this month, they ask some specific questions.  Please consider taking a few minutes to jot them a short email with your thoughts at

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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…

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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…

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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.