May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

So How Is That Science Teaching Job Working Out for You?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

You made it! You dreamed about it all through student teaching – the chance to have your very own classroom. You have set it up just the way you want, you have put together a strong classroom management plan, and you have designed fabulous, creative lessons. It is smooth sailing from here on out…right?

Well, just in case your teaching career is not going quite as effortlessly as you had imagined, you are in good company. Many new teachers find that the realities of a full time teaching job can be even more difficult than their time spent student teaching. However, with a little patience and support you can be on your way to a successful and enjoyable school year. The following are some ideas to help you get there: (more…)

What Do I Do Now?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

Congratulations to all of the new teachers who have earned their teaching credentials and who will be entering classrooms for their first year of teaching in the fall.

As classes wind down and your summer looms, you may be wondering, “What do I do now?” Many of my new teachers ask me this question every year so I thought I would share a few of my suggestions: (more…)

Reflecting on Your Own Practice

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Frederick Nelson

Very often teachers are encouraged to reflect on their professional practice, typically with prompts such as “How did that go?” or “What went well, what didn’t go well, and what would I do differently next time?” These self-inquiries, while relevant to a teaching episode, may result in a consideration of only the surface features of a teacher’s practice. Other questions might dig deeper.

“What was the most enjoyable part of the class for me? The least enjoyable? Why?”

This question may get at my own confidence and competence with respect to the lesson content or delivery. Perhaps I enjoyed the Engagement section of a 5E lesson on buoyancy where I described my personal experience going snorkeling. This reflection helps me understand that my role as a teacher includes some sharing on my life outside the classroom and attempting to make connections to content. Or, if I found myself wanting to get through the Explanation stage of that lesson, that feeling could point to a lack of preparation. (more…)

Teaching and Learning Science through Writing

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Amanda Smith

Writing is a powerful, effective tool to help students learn and understand science. When students write for you, their teacher, their explanations often lack clarity and precision because they realize you already know and understand the content matter.  But when their target audience knows nothing about the content matter, the student’s explanation must be much more thorough and clearly written. Consequently, a great way to get your students to learn actively and improve their writing, too, is to have them write about a specific science concept and choose a “layperson” intended audience such as a parent, friend, or sibling.  Sometimes I ask my students to write as someone or something else, such as the journey of a single blood cell through the circulatory system from the perspective of the blood cell.   Students often enjoy choosing their own format for writing, so even though you give them the topic, consider allowing them to choose whether they want to write an essay, letter, poem, or comic strip with illustrations. This provides the teacher with a fun group of assignments to read and grade, and gives students a chance to truly showcase their interests and talents while deepening their understanding of science in the process. (more…)

How to Encourage and Engage Shy Students

Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

Shyness has no single definition, but it’s generally described as a feeling of uncomfortableness in social situations in ways that interfere with our ability to enjoy ourselves, to perform at the level we’re capable of or, that cause us to avoid social situations altogether.  It can come from a variety of sources such as disappointment from earlier childhood experiences, having predisposition to anxiety, or due to learning disabilities that cause difficulties with reading social cues. Since learning is clearly a social activity, it’s important for us to help students overcome this potential obstacle. Getting students to realize that shyness is a feeling more than it is a personality trait will give them hope that they can master their feelings and learn to muster courage when desired.  (more…)

Teachable Moments

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

What do natural disasters, national holidays, international wars, and bizarre events all have in common?  These can all be incorporated into your classroom as “teachable moments.”  A teachable moment is not something that you can typically plan for, and often may cause you to digress from your original lesson plan; however, it provides an organic way to maximize “the moment”, which in turn, captivates the interest of the students in ways that pre-planned lessons might not.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate teachable moments in the classroom is to start with my current events bulletin board.  Each week, I bring in articles about current topics within the scientific community. These are often brief articles, such as one on a new fossil organism that was discovered, or perhaps an explanation on a large solar magnetic storm coming up. Students can borrow the articles to read during silent reading and free time, and it gives them a great opening to ask questions and inquire about the world around us. (more…)

Bridging the Communication Gap Between Teacher and Parent

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. (more…)

The Benefits of Mentoring (for New Teachers and Veterans)

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

by Amanda L. Smith

Pairing an experienced teacher with a new teacher can be a great way to boost a new teacher’s confidence and provides multiple levels of support including content guidance, classroom management assistance, and many others. The first few years of teaching are potentially stressful but with the support of veteran teachers and a good mentoring program, they can be successful and rewarding. Even if you’ve already completed your Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program (BTSA), or you are a veteran teacher who has recently changed schools, you can still benefit from learning from other teachers at your school. (more…)

Eliminating Holiday Distractions: How to Keep Your Students Focused and On-Track

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

by Amanda Smith

The holidays are a time to work smarter, not harder. We all find ourselves busier than usual during the fall holiday season, both inside our classrooms and in our personal lives. However, we don’t want our students to lose their focus during these critical two months despite the numerous days off, fall/winter fundraisers, special events, and classroom parties. With this in mind, here are some of my personal tips on how you and your students can make the most of this year’s holiday season: (more…)

Creating a Life-Work Balance as a New Teacher

Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Amanda L. Smith

Sometimes we’re asked the question, “How hard can teaching really be?” which is often followed with comments like, “I mean, you only have a seven-hour day, and part of that is lunch, recess, and a prep period…and you get tons of holiday breaks, and summers!” These sorts of questions and statements demonstrate that the public doesn’t truly understand the extensive workload that we take home with us each night. Teachers know that we often spend long hours of our weekends with lesson planning, grading papers, and making phone calls and emails to parents, etc. We also have workshops and meetings to attend, committees to serve on, after-school tutoring for our struggling students, detentions to monitor at lunch, grants to write for new technology, and discipline issues to document. With all of these responsibilities, it’s too easy to forget to take care of ourselves. (more…)

What Makes for an Effective Science Demonstration?

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques

You are standing at the front of the classroom, poised behind some apparatus. Students are watching expectantly. Something exciting is about to happen, but what? The tension in the room is palpable as students eagerly await the moment when you make the magic of science come alive. You make a motion to start the demo and then pause, pulling the students along with you to further build the anticipation. When you do the demonstration and it works you have their attention, you’ve piqued their interest and they are ready to learn. (more…)

Teaching Tips for New Teachers: The Importance of Bell-to-Bell Instruction

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Amanda L. Smith

During your first few years of teaching, it’s easy to become preoccupied with mastering craft of content, discipline, and classroom management.  However, it’s also important to follow the best practice of using your class time as efficiently and effectively as possible. One teaching method that may be used to accomplish this is called “bell-to-bell” instruction. You might think that this means having students participate in one particular task or activity for an entire class period.  This is a common misconception, partially due to the name “bell-to-bell” instruction itself, but also because teachers may be more focused on getting through all their content in the duration allotted rather than thinking globally about overall classroom learning objectives and management. (more…)

Tips for New Teachers: Back to School

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

by Judith Aguilar

As a brand new teacher, setting up your new classroom and preparing for that first day of school can be an emotional roller coaster. You’re excited to meet your students and you’re brimming with new ideas, yet you also feel a little nervous and don’t want to forget anything important. It’s easy to begin with the most obvious needs, and you’ve probably already been obsessing about how you’ll set up your room, prepare the seating arrangements, what to put up on your walls, and the organization of your teaching materials and supplies. These are all significant, but perhaps the most essential element to consider when preparing for the new school year is classroom management. A good plan should include not only rules and consequences, but also routines and procedures. Setting these daily, weekly, and monthly routines are a must to keep you as well as your students on the track to success. (more…)

Inverted or Flipped Classrooms: What are they and how do they work?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques and Meredith Ashbran

What is a flipped or inverted classroom?

Classrooms at the K-12 and college level normally include the direct instruction portion of the instructional sequence. Students listen to a lecture, take notes, and may participate in discussions. There might be some demonstrations or lab activities, but the bulk of classroom time is often spent with the teacher doing lots of work and the students passively receiving the information. Students then go home to solve problems, answer homework questions, and try to apply the information they “learned” during class. It is often at this point where the lessons, which seemed to make so much sense during school hours, seem confusing and the students need help from us. Sadly for them, we aren’t there to help! (more…)

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of TED-Ed

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

by Donna Ross

Technology has become a central component of the science classroom, but it can be overwhelming to consider the vast array of resources. During the next few months I will review a few of my favorite free or low-cost options for teachers. This month I am starting with TED-Ed. In case you haven’t used TED talks, I will start with a brief overview before exploring their new educational initiative.

TED is a nonprofit that began nearly 30 years ago as a conference. The underlying goal was that there are some ideas so important that they are worth sharing. People were invited to come and give a brief talk that would be shared with others. Since then, the conferences have continued, generally two per year with up to 100 presenters sharing talks that last from six to eighteen minutes. Eventually, the goal became even bigger. It seemed that if the ideas were worth sharing, they were worth sharing even more widely. For the past five years, many of the talks have been shared with the world on the TED website http://www.ted.com/talks. (more…)

Science Resolutions

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

by Donna Ross

It is that time of year again. A period of reflection and promise.  Many of us are examining our chocolate consumption, exercise regimes, spending habits, and closet organization. But, this can also be a chance to look beyond your personal habits. (more…)

Sara and Ellen Talk About Testing

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

by Sara and Ellen

As the end of the school year approached, I thought it best to allow Sara and Ellen to finish their years without my asking for another article. But alas, they wanted one more opportunity to pass along some new teacher wisdom to others.  They decided to write about testing, both the CST experiences at their sites and how finals were handled. What you see below are their thoughts about CSTs and final exams.

California Standards Tests

Sara: Our school year started at the beginning of August, so by the time the CST’s came around in mid-April, I had already taught my students 95% of the material they needed to know. This was great because my students came back after the test feeling very confident and told me that the test was actually very easy. Of course, I will need to wait until I see their scores to see if that was really the case. The students were scheduled for four days of testing: Tuesday and Wednesday in two consecutive weeks, one test each day. This seemed to work out fine; but we did not have any shortened days. Instead, the students tested in the morning, then had to go to each class. By the time they got to class, they were exhausted, and getting through any material was impossible. I feel like everyone would have benefited from having minimum days during testing.

Ellen: Because our school is on the 4X4 schedule, the students take four classes in the fall and four different classes in the spring; our schedule was very weird. The students in the fall had already learned 100% of the material by early January. However, they hadn’t seen any chemistry since then. The students in the spring were about 70% through the material, and that was rushing them along. So, I decided to hold review sessions after school for three days. I sent notes to all my students from fall and made the sessions worth extra credit points for those who attended. Surprisingly, I had a lot of students show up from both semesters and we were able to review all of the material. I do not know how much this actually helped the students, but at the very least, the students said they felt better about taking the CSTs. I am looking forward to see how the students do on their tests, and hopefully will see a positive pattern for those who turned up at the review sessions.

Final Exams

Sara: Our finals schedule was a bit hectic because we had to make sure that seniors took their finals early. Since my classes are mixed grades, I gave my final early to all of my students, which then gives the students a couple days after to do all the yearbook signing and relaxing that they have been longing for. All of our finals are written by the district, so all I need to do is make sure the scantrons get to the district office. Then, the district posts the scores online so that I can enter them into my grade book. This makes final week go by very smooth for me because I don’t have to do much work. However, the common assessments are terrible because cheating runs rampant and I lose all of the freedom to give my own final.

Ellen: As for the finals schedule at our school, we have two-hour final blocks on two minimum days. So, the last three days are minimum days. Day one are periods 1 and 2 final blocks. Day two are periods 3 and 4 final blocks. Day three, students go to all of their classes for less than an hour. This serves as a way to have any students who were absent take their finals and to wrap everything up. While it is a “throw away day” I love it. This day allows for teachers to tell students their final grades, allow yearbook-signing, and some goodies to be shared. while this might seem a little elementary, it is a really fun day for teachers and students to wrap-up the school year.

Rick: I want to thank Sara and Ellen for their willingness to share their first year teacher experiences with us this year. As we move forward in our careers, we need to remember what it is like to be at the beginning of our careers. There are so many things to remember, lessons to plan, students’ names to learn, procedures and policies to implement, and the entire culture of the school to adopt. It is not an easy task. Sara and Ellen have done an admirable job of sharing their thoughts and questions with us.  I look forward to following their careers as they mature into the outstanding teachers that I know they can be.  Please take a moment and add a comment at the bottom of this article or send an email to SaraandEllen@gmail.com.  I am sure that they will appreciate your encouragement as they move into year 2.

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

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

As the year draws to a close, I decided to ask Sara and Ellen the kinds of questions that every teacher educator asks their students at the end of the year. I wanted them to reflect on their first year of teaching with an eye to some of the successes that they had. At this time of year, new teachers are often caught up in testing, pink slips, and exhaustion. It has been my experience that they lose site of the reasons that they went into this business in the first place. I think Sara and Ellen’s responses hold a lot of interest for those of you who have been following their development over the year and for those of us who wish them the best in years 2-30. I don’t think anyone could sum up the impact that teachers have on others better than Ellen has in her last comment. (more…)

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

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

It has been a busy few months for Sara and Ellen. Both have been enrolled in a masters of arts in education program as a continuation of their teaching credential programs.  That program wrapped up on the first weekend in March with Sara and Ellen presenting their research along with nine other first or second year science teachers. Listening to their presentation was inspiring and provided me with lots of ideas for my State of Science Education in California presentation at NSTA in San Francisco.  All of the students investigated ways to improve student learning by looking at their own teaching techniques.  The overwhelming finding, regardless of subject matter or grade level, was that students have become skilled at answering simple, formulaic problems but almost totally incapable of applying that same knowledge to the same questions when it was asked as part of a word problem or a scenario questions. Whether calculating density, speed, or molar masses, or connecting chemistry concepts to real life examples, the students in their studies struggled tremendously with applying their rote knowledge to problem solving situations.  As a way of honoring the effort that Sara and Ellen put into their projects and to give them a little breathing room at the end of their M.A. program, I have included their research questions and a summary of their findings, conclusions, or implications here for you to enjoy. (more…)

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

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 (more…)

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

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

As the first semester was drawing to a close, I thought it would be interesting to ask Sara and Ellen what changes they would like to make for the coming semester and a little bit about how they felt they did.  As you can see from their responses, the crush of finishing before the winter break has not dampened their abilities to reflect on their first semesters of teaching. (more…)

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

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

Sara and Ellen: California Science Education Conference Reflections

Now that the 2010 California Science Education Conference has been put to bed, I thought it would be informative to ask Sara and Ellen about their experiences in Sacramento.  Both attended the conference in Sacramento, and both have some important things to say about their experiences.

Rick: What was the most beneficial thing you gained by attending?

Ellen: The most beneficial part of the CSTA conference was the resource room.  The workshops are also amazing, but to have hundreds of resource tables in rows ready, willing, and able to help all science teaching disciplines was wonderful.  I was able to get many free gifts such as: class sets of periodic tables, maps and posters, lesson plans, and lab equipment.  I also came in contact with many vendors who could help suggest different laboratories for classrooms and email lists to join. (more…)

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

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 saraandellen@gmail.com.

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? (more…)

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

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.  (more…)

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: A Play in 10 parts

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

This article is the first in a series of monthly articles following the first year of teaching for Sara and Ellen.  Throughout the year, you will see the challenges each face in their new careers in very different schools, one in northern California and one in southern California. (more…)

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