September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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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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.

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.