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: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Minda Berbeco
Free Entry Days at:
Super-cool Science Parties and Lectures:
Nerd Nite East Bay, Last Monday of the month
Nerd Nite San Francisco, Third Wednesday of the month
Night Life, Thursdays, 6-10 pm, at the California Academy of Sciences
After Dark, First Thursday of the month, 6-10 pm, at the Exploratorium
Café Inquiry, Firth Thursday of the month, 6pm, at Café Borrone, Menlo Park
Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Mei Louie
Across the state, California teachers are driving innovation in the classroom and shaping our students’ futures. To support their critical work, a coalition of California colleges and universities is inviting teachers to unite on Friday, July 31, 2015 to build powerful networks, share successful classroom practices and access effective resources to implement state standards.
Thirty-three California campuses are opening their spaces and inviting an estimate of 20,000 teachers to participate in a one-day event. Teachers will have a unique opportunity to hear about proven best practices from nationally renowned speakers, fellow teachers, and leaders in education. The free convening will be led by teachers, for teachers, and will help towards building a powerful lasting network of peers. This is a chance for teachers to come together to collaborate in hope of creating a better future for California students. Teachers will walk away with concrete tools to immediately use in their classrooms to implement the California Standards including the Common Core. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Lisa Hegdahl
About 10 years ago, at an after school meeting, our presenter posed the question, “Why did you become a science teacher?” Each of my colleagues gave answers such as, “I wanted to affect the future”, “I loved working with children”, and “I wanted to stay young”. As it came closer for my turn to share, I was in a panic. The truth was, I became a science teacher as a way to get out of a dead end job that had long hours and paid next to nothing.
I have often thought about that day and about the noble motives for entering our profession expressed by my colleagues. Perhaps only those of us who truly have some kind of selfless calling should endeavor to be science teachers. My reflections led me, however, to the conclusion that it is not important how people answer the question, “Why did you become a science teacher?” but how they answer the question, “Why do you continue teaching science?” I continue teaching science because I love it.
I love teaching science for all the usual reasons – I love that I get to teach a subject of which there is always more to learn; I love that I get to observe my students discovering and making sense of the world around them; and I love that I get to delight in the moments when my students teach me something from a perspective I had not previously considered. And yet, I also love teaching science because it is about more than just what happens in my classroom. People say lawyers practice law and doctors practice medicine, suggesting that these professionals continually work to improve their skills and stay current on the latest methods. Similarly, good science teachers practice teaching science, always improving their skills and staying current on the latest methods.
After years as a Science Olympiad Coach, BTSA Support Provider, and Science Department Chairperson at my school site, the pursuit of improving my science teaching skills led me to join, and ultimately volunteer for, the California Science Teachers Association. I began by presenting workshops at the annual, CSTA hosted, California Science Education Conferences. Then, in 2009, Rick Pomeroy, my former UC Davis student teaching supervisor and CSTA President 2011-2013, asked me to join the planning committee for the 2010 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento. He followed the conference committee request with invitations to chair the 2012 California Science Education Conference in San Jose, run for the 2011-2013 CSTA Jr. High/Middle School Director position, and finally, to submit my name for the 2015-2017 CSTA Presidency. Each of these experiences allowed me to network with and learn from other science educators and helped me gain new insights into science teaching. In addition, they opened doors that led to other opportunities to become involved and influence science education at the state level – the CA NGSS State Rollouts, the California Curriculum Frameworks and Evaluation Criteria Committee, and the California NGSS Early Implementation Initiative.
Throughout my involvement in these activities, one thing is repeatedly confirmed for me – there are thousands of talented science educators across California. Most of them are not on the CSTA Board of Directors, its committees, or work with its partners. They are science teachers who go into their classrooms every day and do amazing things. They practice teaching science with a passion for the subject and their students. They are not recognized for their achievements or compensated for their hours of extra work, and yet they will be back tomorrow to do it all again – many spending their own time and money to improve themselves as educators. As I take on the role of President of the California Science Teachers Association, I am incredibly humbled and proud to represent these teachers and I will strive to help them acquire and maintain the support, resources, and policies they need to continue to excel at the job they love.
I want to end with a huge Thank You to 2013-2015 CSTA President, Laura Henriques who is an incredible role model for leadership. Her grace, patience, and expertise were invaluable in preparing me for the next two years.
Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Kirsten Franklin
After 25 years as an elementary teacher, I decided to take the leap two years ago to become a TOSA (teacher on special assignment) to support K-12 teachers in my district in science and the common core state standards. There is no specific handbook for doing this, but luckily, there have been great local and state resources to help. I have relied mainly on the trainings and guidance received from BaySci, a San Francisco Bay Area Science Consortium headed up by the Lawrence Hall of Science that my district has been part of since 2008. Membership in CSTA and NSTA, Twitter, reading the NRC Science Framework and the NGSS performance expectations over and over have also helped me to build understanding and confidence in the content and pedagogical shifts. Wrapping one’s head around the NGSS definitely takes time and multiple exposures! Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Lori Merritt
Our environment faces many challenges. Human behavior has greatly contributed to these negative changes. Children will be inheriting a world with many environmental problems and need to be prepared to face them. In order for children to care about the environment and have positive environmental behavior they first need to have experiences outside in natural environments (Chawla & Cushing, 2007; Handler & Ebstein, 2010). Unfortunately, children are spending less time in nature, making them less connected to their natural environment. In Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, nature-deficit disorder is described as “the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses” (p.36). In order for our students to be healthy, and environmentally proactive members of society we need to lead them outdoors. Learn More…