January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Leaning In and Leading by Example

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

The retirement of Phil Lafontaine from the California Department of Education has me thinking again about leadership in science education, particularly in California. In addition to hiring Phil’s replacement, CDE’s STEM Office was also hiring. As I think about science educators around the state who might apply for these positions I fear we are not doing a good enough job of helping foster our future leaders. I recognize that lean budgets and multiple years of teacher lay-offs contribute to an environment that is not conducive to building leadership. However, times are changing and there is a renewed focus and energy around STEM education. As a community, we need to take advantage of this opportunity and help develop a pipeline of science education leaders.

Those of you who read this column regularly know that this is not the first time I have encouraged you to get involved beyond your classroom. In my first column as President of CSTA, I wrote of my desire to see more CSTA members take steps towards becoming leaders in science education. I urged you to get involved at your school site, to become more active in CSTA, and to mentor colleagues to help them become engaged. The processes during which the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards provided multiple opportunities to make your voices heard. In the months and years ahead there will be more chances to do so.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote a popular book entitled Lean In. Sandberg focused on the lack of women in leadership positions and provided suggestions on how to empower women to achieve their potential. While her book addresses the problem of too few women in leadership positions, the lessons and suggestions are valuable for everyone regardless of gender. The title of the book encourages us to refrain from the habit of sitting back and withholding ideas and opinions. While Sandberg writes about women who hold back and don’t lean in, I think it is safe to say that almost all of us have moments where we sit back and watch instead of getting actively involved. I want to take space in this column to give a shout out to those of you who have leaned in (you know who you are) and encourage the rest of us to do what we can to make moves towards leadership positions and more engagement with the science education community.

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Share Your Classroom Expertise. Many of you have written for California Classroom Science (CCS) this past year. While your CSTA Board members have great things to share, we also know that our members have a wealth of expertise and experience. To that end, each board member has invited at least one colleague to write an article for CCS this year. This is something we will continue in the future, but know that any member can write for CCS…you don’t need to wait for an invitation! For example, consider writing about a great lesson or lab, a teaching strategy that worked well, results of action research that could be helpful to others, or resources you think other teachers would find useful. You probably also know of colleagues who are doing really wonderful things in their classrooms…ask them to write an article. One of the suggestions Sandberg writes about is the importance of mentoring and encouraging people to get involved. Maybe you can help someone on their professional path by asking them to write for CCS. Click here for CCS themes, deadlines, and author guidelines.

State Level Opportunities to Lean In. With the adoption of NGSS and CCSS there have been multiple ways for science teachers to lean in and lead. Already acknowledged are the numerous CSTA members who contributed to the Science Framework Focus Groups and the regional focus groups that provided feedback about the ELA/ELD Framework to the Instructional Quality Commission. The work of those individuals and groups will affect all of us. The feedback from the science framework focus groups has provided direction to the IQC for the science framework. Meanwhile, the ELA review teams provided more than 40 pages of input about the ELA Framework that have strengthened and shaped the final draft of that document. I know that 171 of you applied to serve on the Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Commission, and the IQC and SBE will be selecting as many as 20 to serve on that commission soon. Thank you for taking the time to apply to serve and for those of you selected, we are indebted to the time and effort you will devote to the task.

Districts Lean In. The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation has teamed up with WestEd to support a handful of districts (K-8) who will be early implementers of NGSS. The districts will serve as models for the rest of the state, sharing lessons on building capacity, implementation, and strategies for success. Lessons from these fast-start adopters will provide guidance for the rest of the state. It is exciting to know we’ll have schools and districts paving the way and sharing their results to help ease the implementation for the rest of us. In a few instances, it has been a CSTA member who urged their district to apply for this opportunity. Talk about science teachers making a difference and helping shape their destiny! Way to go!

Serve CSTA. Beyond writing for CSTA’s newsletter, CCS, you can also serve on a working committee. Initial appointments for CSTA’s committees will be made at the June 14, 2014 board meeting. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact me. The committees that need your energy, expertise, and innovations are the NGSS, publications, membership, legislative oversight, and conference committees. The committees do most of their work electronically and via conference calls.

CSTA members have already received ballots to vote for new CSTA Board Members. Our entire organization will benefit from the work the soon-to-be elected board members will do on our behalf. I am thrilled that we have such strong candidates on the ballot and I truly appreciate them stepping up to serve. I am saddened, however, that in a state of our size we don’t have numerous CSTA members applying to run for the various board positions. Please vote; balloting closes on May 15.

Mentor the Next Generation. For you more seasoned veterans out there, do what you can to support your colleagues’ professional development. Sandberg speaks of the importance of having a mentor; perhaps you can serve that role. We can all look around and find at least one science educator who has potential. Find that person and make it your goal to help them reach their potential. Encourage them to apply for opportunities and be available to guide them as they take steps towards leadership.

We need to have a pipeline of strong science education advocates who will lead us forward. Lean in. Support your colleagues and encourage them to get involved. Do something together. CSTA needs you; California needs you.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

One Response

  1. Laura,
    Thank you for your well-written, inspiring article. As a past president of CSTA, it is safe to say that it is a continual, long-term process to “grow” new leaders in science education. Readers of this newsletter may be interested to know there is a national organization devoted to building leadership expertise for current and emerging science leaders… the National Science Education Leadership Association (nsela.org). I am currently on the board of NSELA and encourage science educators to consider the opportunities NSELA offers. Thank you for your service to CSTA and for your inspiring us to mentor new leaders!
    Deborah Tucker

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