November 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 3


Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Stages of NGSS Grief

by Jill Grace

So here we are in August. You are likely a responsible science educator and have spent some time digging into NGSS and considering how you will be making some changes this school year. Observing so many teachers across California these past two years of NGSS awareness, I get the sense we could all use a good laugh at this point! (I would like to express that in no way is this intended to trivialize those suffering from grief.)

As we settle in, we realize that we have a lot of work to do get ready for the NGSS. I am experiencing a lot of emotions with respect to this change and I’ve been witnessing similar emotions in other teachers during the course of this journey we’ve been on together.

Although not an official stage of grief, I think confusion is relevant in this situation. Confusion was that moment you thought, “Wait, what? New Science standards?” and the world seemed to actually stop turning and everything went silent except for the blood you could hear rushing past your ears as it drained out of your head.

You then fell quickly into denial. “Nooooo… they can’t be serious. Someone, please tell me this is isn’t real.” You looked at your colleagues for comfort, but they just started laughing and said, “That’s a good one, I needed a laugh”. Work commenced as usual as you and your colleagues brushed off the scare. But like student references to zombies being real, it didn’t go away.

After some time to think, the anger set in. “There’s no way one more thing can possibly be added to our full plates. What are they thinking?!” It’s around this time that the mere mention of NGSS would cause your eye to twitch and your mouth to spout some choice words on the matter

After a few days to calm down and some time to let it sink in a little, you realized this was no joke. That’s when the bargaining happened. That moment when you finally started to actually read the standards. You started with the DCI’s because that felt safe and familiar. You decided that all you really had to do was make a chart to show the labs you currently do and where they will fit in NGSS, this wasn’t going to be so bad, right? That’s when it caught your attention that you had some new things to teach and you chatted with your principal, “If I do this, I’ll get that new piece of lab equipment, right”? You convinced yourself that this could work to your advantage, “Bring it on”!

A few months, articles, workshops, twitter NGSS chats, and webinars later, it finally hits you. You have to teach three dimensionally and you need a phenomenon. You can’t just do the one-for-one lab swap. You are utterly doomed. In a moment of weakness, you busted out that tub of ice cream and downed it to the shock and disgust of your family (if it’s Rocky Road it counts as integrating geology, right?)

Grace_Photo_1Ironically, the more you began to dig, the more you began to realize that the NGSS were going to be truly transformative for student learning. As a teacher you have a long road ahead of you, change isn’t easy, and this is going to be a lot of work. But looking past that, you can now clearly see that students will be engaged, students will be thinkers, students will be doing science. You can learn to live with this. Dare I say you even feel a little excited about the change? That’s when it finally crept up on you… acceptance.

Of course, as any good science teacher, you know that the only thing that flows in a true cycle is a life cycle. This thing is probably a lot more like a really messy rock or carbon cycle situation.

After acceptance you had that moment when you went back to confusion: “So this is just Common Core for science?” a friend asked with that tone in their voice. You stumbled for a moment and didn’t know how to answer. (For the record, it’s not, but you knew that, right?) You attended the state-wide Roll Out and fell back into anger because we did an ecology conceptual flow and even though the session was intended to showcase a tool and not content, it had nothing to do with physics (or is that confusion?) Then there was that moment you realized you now have to teach some Earth science and depression hit. That freaked you out and you started bargaining with your colleague about swapping semesters, “I’ll teach the chemistry and you’ll teach the Earth science and happy hour will be on me for eternity.” Then there was that time you plunged back into denial when you realized you didn’t have the first clue about engineering. But you pushed forward and tried some new things this year anyway and at the end of the year, a kid came up to you and told you that they had no idea they could learn so much. You glanced over at your cheat sheet with all of the NGSS acronyms decoded, and beamed with acceptance. “I can do this!” you shout triumphantly to the student who is now looking confused and slowly backing away towards the door.

Yes folks, this is a dizzying but empowering journey. Good thing we are in this together and can support one another!

Need a little more support to help you through this? CSTA moderates five different Facebook groups to help foster collaboration between California educators. Request to join the group applicable to what you teach:

California Elementary Science Teachers
California Middle School Science Teachers
California High School Science Teachers
California Science District Coaches
California Science Education Faculty

These groups are active and exclusive to educators that meet those descriptors. Check your “other” message box for verification once you have requested.

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is the President-elect for CSTA.

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Sincere thanks to our Platinum 2015 CSTA Conference Sponsor!