September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

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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.

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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

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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

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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.