Getting Ready for a New School Year
Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
by Nikki Bailey
Renewal, self-reflection, collaboration and willingness to change are some of the keys to my professional growth. Each year, I have a process to get myself ready for the first days of school. My current strategies are outlined below. I say current, as they seem to evolve each year as my content and coworkers change.
The first step to getting ready for the school year is to renew. Taking personal time, enjoying time with family and friends, doing the things in my house that have been ignored during the busy school year, and relaxing are some ways to renew. Without this renewal, when starting to gear up for the new year, it is possible that stress and fatigue set in earlier.
Second, I go through my first unit and plan out what it is I want to accomplish in my classroom during the first month of school, reflecting on what worked last year, and what didn’t.
- Did the lessons hit enough learning styles?
- Was there enough variety in my teaching, or was the delivery repetitive?
- Did the students get enough initial feedback so they could learn how my class is structured?
- How was my classroom management?
- Where there enough routines established so that the students knew what to expect?
- How was my time management?
Honest reflection is the key to this process. Being able to honestly critique yourself is a skill that takes time to develop, and can be difficult, but this was the starting point for my growth as an educator.
Although I use a file cabinet for keeping the extra handouts, it is not a user-friendly way to evaluate a unit of work as a whole. For that reason, I have created a binder for each unit that shows the daily calendar, the student handouts, activities, and tests. Each time a lesson is completed, I reflect on what worked and what didn’t and make a list of things to change and things to keep the same. These binders are my starting place for reflection. My advice is to create a portable system where you can look at your lessons and reflect easily.
As the school year starts and the whirlwind continues, I try to remember to take time for reflection at least once per unit. Remembering which activities were good and which were not as good is easy, but I don’t remember what specifics needed changing unless they get written down. This reflection gets written on a Post-it® and stuck directly on the student handout in the binder. In all honesty, this is the most important step in my preparation and when I don’t follow through, it makes it that much harder to improve the lesson.
Third, I set up at least one summer meeting with the people I work closely with. We discuss our individual plans for changes and come together to agree on a new way to proceed for the new year. We also take time to discuss what we did over the summer and to renew our bonds. Though not often talked about, this is just as important as discussing teaching strategies. We need to feel connected to and comfortable with our colleagues in order to feel comfortable discussing our successes and failures, of which there may be many! This year, we are working on making chemistry more conceptual and open-ended, with the hope of teaching our students to be able to problem solve more independently. We have included several lessons that we feel will help the students, but we won’t know until our students give us feedback.
Once the new school year gets underway, we each implement the new strategies we talked about over the summer and then discuss the outcomes, both positive and negative. There have been times when the activities fail miserably in my classroom, but worked like a charm in my neighbor’s room. We talk to each other constantly to make sure that growth is happening, and we are honest in our assessments. This year, we will discuss the students’ growth in their thinking, and adapt lessons as needed to help in this process.
Finally, I am always willing to change, as change is growth. There are times that I bore myself, so it follows that my students are bored. This is when it is important to take time and find new ways to integrate technology, games, hands-on activities, and group work. I talk to co-workers in different grade levels or subjects to see what strategies they use, look online for different ideas, and, when possible, go to conferences. Talking to a teacher from any grade level and any subject is helpful, as any activity can be adapted for any grade level or content.
Classroom success is directly related to the time taken for renewal, reflection, and collaboration with peers. Renewal allows you to remember there is life outside of your classroom, reflection is the step that allows your lessons to improve, and collaboration gives you the support to try new ideas. If I miss one of these steps, inevitably the school year is harder than it needs to be.
Nikki Bailey teaches chemistry at Poly High School in Long Beach and is a member of CSTA.
Posted: Monday, April 11th, 2016
Looking to take your NGSS presentation on the road? Consider submitting an application to present in the fellow NGSS-adoption state of Nevada!
You are invited to submit a proposal for a 90 minute presentation at the first annual Northwest Nevada Math & Science Conference on Saturday August 27, 2016. Take this opportunity to share your ideas and enthusiasm and to highlight your successes and challenges with fellow attendees at the inaugural conference. The deadline to submit a proposal is April 22. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, April 11th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
One of the number one questions that has been posed by teachers since the adoption of the California Next Generation Science Standards in 2013 is: “What about the assessments?” (or some version of that question). Last month, we reported the most recent information available on that topic and since then work has launched to being writing and reviewing assessment items for the new science summative assessment.
Many of you may have already put your names “into the hat” to participate in this process. For those of you who have not and would like to be considered for such an opportunity, I urge you to submit your application today: http://caaspp.org/reviewers.html. CDE’s testing contractor Educational Testing Services (ETS) is soliciting applications for content reviewers for the new CA NGSS assessment and alternate assessment.
This is your opportunity to participate in the implementation of the California NGSS and the new science summative assessment. Seize the moment and apply today!
Posted: Sunday, April 10th, 2016
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is currently accepting proposals for speakers to present at the 2017 National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles, March 30–April 2. Strands can be viewed here and focus on the Next Generation Science Standards, STEM, science and literacy, and equity. To submit, please click here. The deadline to submit is April 15, 2016. Learn more about NSTA conferences. Questions? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, April 8th, 2016
by Joanne Michael
It’s coming…NGSS implementation. You’ve been going to the CSTA conferences to learn more, reading articles, following the “Early Implementers” twitter handle (@earlyimplement), and are excited to start trying out all of the new standards and lessons. One hiccup… your district isn’t ready to begin implementing-in fact, is telling you directly to NOT begin transitioning your lessons for at least another year. What’s a motivated, focused science teacher to do?
This exact situation is what I am in right now. To be fair, my district is beginning to implement in the middle school level and preparing for implementation at the high school level, but we were given direct instructions to not begin implementing any lessons at the elementary level for a bit longer (to give the classroom teachers a chance to adapt to the new Common Core math and ELA curriculum and standards). While frustrating, there are some things that can be done in the interim before getting the go-ahead to begin implementation. Learn More…
Posted: Friday, April 8th, 2016
by Terry Shanahan
In preparation for the summer 2015 Southern California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Institute in Vista, our grade 2 cadre of science educators from elementary, secondary, and the university, planned a week of science investigations around matter and its interactions. Of course, we began our planning with the question, “What would you expect a second grader to know about matter?” After our quick write, we began our conceptual flow, using post-its for each of our statements. We then checked our conceptual flow against “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas”. Had we left out any important concepts? Our biggest idea became: Matter is observable and it is not created or destroyed even as it changes form. Our conceptual flow moved from left to right: concrete to abstract. Our smaller ideas and the concepts we found in the Framework document later became the guiding statement for each day of our institute: Learn More…