May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

In our last issue, you were introduced to Sara and Ellen, two first-year teachers, one in northern California and the other in southern California, both of whom are teaching chemistry.  In the first edition, we learned a little bit about their anticipation for their first days of school.  This month, we get a short glimpse into how their years began.  Sara started school in early August and Ellen two weeks later.  Please feel free to send comments or questions to Sara and Ellen at

Rick: How did your first official day of teaching go?  Were there any surprises?

Sara: Because we are on alternating block schedule, I actually had two first days of school.  The first day was with my natural science classes, where I did a lot of “getting to know you” exercises.  Many of the students in these classes are not-quite-college-bound students and often have behavior issues, so I thought it would be best to just spend the first day forming a solid relationship with them and give them a chance to get to know me.  It seemed to go really well, but I could tell right away that one of my classes in particular would give me a bit of trouble.  My chemistry classes were absolutely wonderful.  They were very concerned about the difficulty of the class, but seemed relieved when I told them that I wanted them to succeed in my class and that, while chemistry is a very difficult subject, I was there to help them.  I did a demonstration for them, and, instead of just saying “Wow, that’s cool,” they were asking me questions about what was going on and trying to analyze it.  I thought that was great, and it got me even more excited to be teaching them.

Ellen: I found the first day of school to be pretty chaotic and fun overall.  We are on a block schedule, so there are four 90-minute periods each day.  I teach two chemistry courses and one Project Lead The Way Principles of Biomedicine course.  For the chemistry classes, I introduced myself by using a PowerPoint, had the students introduce themselves, and I also performed a few demonstrations for the students.  We then had a class discussion about what science and chemistry are, etc.  Both classes were a lot of fun and full of students who participated.  For the biomed course, I did the same introduction as chemistry, and then we watched a video I made for the beginning of the curriculum.  It was a great way to start because students used collaborative groups to assess the situation they were shown.

The chaotic or surprising part of the day had to do with all of the schedule changes.  My rosters showed between 32-36 students for each class; however, about 40 students showed up for each of my classes, so right from the beginning I needed extra desks andchairs and a brand new seating chart for each class.  That being said, the students were amazing about it and helped me find seats for everyone.

Rick: Now that the first weeks of school have passed, what do you wish you had known before the first week of school?

Sara: Due to budget cuts, there was only one day of before-school meetings, and that only lasted about three hours.  I was given so much information that I forgot half of it and couldn’t even think of other questions to ask because I was so overloaded.  Now that a couple weeks have passed, I am just now getting a lot of the information that I should have known before school started.  Much of it, though, were things that I would never have thought to ask until it actually came up.  I wish I had known all the punishment policies of the school, such as tardies and giving detentions, so that I could integrate them with my own policies.  I also wish I would have known exactly what equipment my classroom should have.  I was missing remotes to the TV and the projector, and I didn’t have a filing cabinet or chair.  I wasn’t sure what I was responsible for getting or what my classroom should have.  Thankfully, I found an extremely helpful custodian that supplied me with a chair and filing cabinet, and, eventually, I was given replacement remotes for the electronics.

Ellen: Well, my situation was a little different because I was a student teacher and a long-term sub all year last year at this school.  So, fortunately, I knew a lot of the policies from the previous year.  The only policy change I wish I had been aware of was how to deal with an IT issue.  By the time I found the form to fill out to get some of the computers fixed, every other teacher had already turned theirs in; needless to say, I am still waiting.  Otherwise, my school did a great job at the meetings of notifying teachers of school policies.

Rick: What would you like to ask other first-year teachers?  (First-year teachers, please send your replies to

Sara: I have had somewhat of an interesting transition into this department.  The chemistry department in particular (there are four other chem teachers) is extremely established.  During my student teaching year, I felt very much at home with much of the department, which operated like a family, and everyone would eat lunch together.  Here, teachers eat lunch in their own classrooms, so there isn’t much interaction, and the other teachers operate similarly with just a few differences.  I am used to more collaboration, but it is hard when the other teachers are so established already.  I don’t feel like I am being left out or anything; everyone is very nice and helpful, and they always check up on me to make sure I don’t need anything.  But I guess I was just expecting something more like my student-teaching experience.  Is any other new teacher going through an awkward transition like this, either good or bad?

Ellen: The teachers I work with are absolutely fabulous people.  They are always willing to help me with everything, but our teaching styles are very, very different.  Some teachers say not to smile for the first week, and others do labs or demonstrations to engage students from day one.  I want to know how other teachers schedule their first days of school.  It seems that there are many ways to go about introducing students to the new topics, and I am interested in trying some new strategies.

Rick: Thank you, Sara and Ellen, for giving us a short glimpse of some of the feelings that many of us have forgotten.  It is great to hear your stories and your enthusiasm for teaching.  Next month, we will provide some of the answers to Sara’s and Ellen’s questions and hear about  some of their early successes.

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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 Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.