September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Creating a Life-Work Balance as a New Teacher

Posted: 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.

I was (and still am) guilty of not spending enough quality time with my family and friends, but it is getting easier the longer that I am in the teaching profession.  I often find myself sitting at home on a Friday night, thinking that if I went out to dinner or to see a movie that I would feel guilty for not being at home and grading papers, or writing lesson plans. But, on the other hand, I also know I should be taking myself out or spending time with my friends and family. Even though I know that it is not unprofessional to have a life outside of school, and be kind to myself, in general, that feeling of guilt still sits firmly within me. As I thought about what advice I could give to new teachers to help them reconcile the two, several things came to mind.

First and perhaps foremost, I also know that I need to make sure to look after my health. No matter how many years we have been in the classroom, teachers still get illnesses and injuries just like everyone else.  With all the long hours on our feet, climbing staircases, sitting under air-conditioned vents, staying up late grading papers, and being around children with illnesses, it is very easy for our immune system to become run-down. I have to continually remind myself to get plenty of sleep, which may include winding down sooner in the evening and doing less work at home. Even though many of us feel compelled go into the classroom even while ill, we are much more effective when we are feeling our best.

Another great idea is to try to create designated time for your hobbies, even if it is something simple like reading a book.  Not everyone is an adrenaline “junky” like me, but without my occasional SCUBA dive in the local ocean, an afternoon kayak, or a trip to the amusement park, I wouldn’t feel like “me.” Whether or not you knit, Sudoku, play chess, take road trips, go dancing, or bake, making time for the things that we love to do makes us healthier and happy in both our personal and professional lives.

In order to help you develop your “me time”, there are many things you can do for yourself and with your workload. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Say “no” and mean it.  Saying “yes” too often can impact our ability to get everything done that we need to, for our classroom, and for ourselves.
  • Help out a colleague, so they can help you in return.  The “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” philosophy can be helpful in reducing tasks, such as photocopying.
  • Learn to delegate.  Students in your classroom can be useful at helping with simple tasks, such as collecting papers, feeding classroom pets, and organizing books.
  • Don’t procrastinate.  Sometimes just getting something out of the way now is better than letting it pile up to do later.
  • Only take as much work home as you know you can handle.  Often I find myself staring at large piles of papers to grade, and it becomes so daunting and unappealing that I end up doing less than I might have if I took it home in smaller stacks.
  • Social time with colleagues.  Going out to dinner or to grab an after work cup of coffee can really help you “blow off steam”, decompress, and talk through your problems.
  • And lastly, smile.  I know that we all have our good days and bad days, but smiling even when you are sad, or angry, can actually help reprogram your brain to feel better.

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.