May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Bridging the Communication Gap Between Teacher and Parent

Posted: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

When I think back to being a brand new teacher, one of my biggest regrets was not communicating with parents more.  To be honest, learning how to bridge the communication gap between teacher and parent is still one of my biggest challenges each new school year.  Here are some tips on how to develop a good relationship with your classroom parents, and whether you have 25 students or closer to 200, you can always find creative ways to do this.

  • Keep parents informed on a regular basis about what you are doing in your classroom:

♦ Parents really appreciate hearing about all the daily/weekly/monthly activities going on in your classroom.  This can be done in a variety of ways, such as a weekly or monthly newsletter, class webpage, or take-home letters.  You can include projects, activities, fun events on campus, etc.

♦ It’s helpful to regularly update parents on their child’s academic and behavior performance as well.  As a middle school teacher I send out weekly or at least biweekly updates via text message and email to my students’ parents about academics and behavior.  This has helped greatly with keeping students on track, and also helps the individual student stay accountable for their actions and work ethic.

  • Disciplining students:

♦ Parents will be much more supportive of your discipline plan both inside and outside the classroom if you contact them as soon as negative behavior starts.  Waiting too long to contact parents gives little time to correct the issue and make positive corrections.  If a parent does not know about a behavior problem, it makes it difficult for them to support what you are doing in your classroom.

  • You can always say no to parents:

♦ Remember that you are the final decision maker in your classroom.  You can always politely, gently and firmly, say, “No!”  Sometimes parents need to learn restraint just as much as their children do.  Feel confident in your decision to say no when it is appropriate.

  • No news is not always good news:

♦ Parents enjoy hearing about the positives much more than the negatives.  Just think about the typical student who has a lot of behavior problems, is talkative in class, and does not turn in homework; the parent of that student may only hear about these negative behaviors, and probably doesn’t relish the constant reminders.  However, sending short emails, phone calls, or text messages about something positive can really make a difference.  I like to send home updates on high test scores, vast improvements in class participation, “light bulb” moments during discussions, etc.  A balance of positives with the negatives definitely helps parents to remember that their child is capable of learning, and can do well in school, even when faced with the challenging behavior issues mentioned above.

  • Never give up on a parent (even if they seem to have given up on you):

♦ Not every parent can show up to meetings, or be reached by email or phone, and sending home notes is not always successful…so what do you do?  Continue making phone calls and leaving messages (document all of your attempts), send letters home in the mail (instead of sending them home with the student), and if your school or district allows, make a home visit.  Persistence can be the key to communicating with a seemingly unreachable parent.

  • Additional ways to work with parents:

♦ Encourage parents to participate in class and school-wide activities.

♦ Reward, recognize and thank parents for their efforts (even for the small things).

♦ Ask parents to come into the classroom and share their hobbies and talents.  Just because you can’t paint with oils on canvas, doesn’t mean one of your parents can’t.  Students can learn a lot from the talents of others, including your own classroom parents.

♦ Assure parents that you are truly invested in their child’s learning and remind them that the reason you need their involvement is for the benefit of their child.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member 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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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.