September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Preparing for a Student Teacher

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Megan McKenzie, Corey Lee, Yukako Kawakatsu, and Rick Pomeroy

As the beginning of the school year approaches, teachers begin to think of all of the things they have to do to be ready for the first day of school. Ordering supplies, mapping the curriculum, developing that perfect opening day activity, and arranging the room to reflect this year’s focus on STEM or science and engineering practices all dominate the planning process. But what should you do if you are hosting a student teacher for the first time this year? Recently, I asked three early career teachers what they would do when planning for a student teacher. By their own admissions, their answers are a blend of what they would have wanted when they started student teaching and the things they plan to do for the new teachers they will be working with this year.

MM: I will develop a yearlong calendar to provide my student teacher with an overview of the experiences my students will have this year. I am planning to make sure that he has access to the campus computer systems. He will need a school email address, and a login to the grading and data system. The email will allow him to communicate professionally with parents and the login will facilitate his monitoring of student learning. I want to make sure that I set aside some personal space so my student teacher feels he has a place in the classroom. Finally, because our school uses a project based learning approach to instruction, I will be sure to provide him with some background information about our teaching philosophy.

CL: I think that providing the student teacher a place in the classroom is important. They need to feel like they are a part of the class and the school. I want to do anything I can to ensure that they don’t feel like an itinerant teacher or a substitute. They need personal space for their own stuff as well as a place to keep student work, materials for upcoming classes, and simply a place to work while they are on campus. Next, I want to introduce my student teacher to the culture of the school and the wide range of students who will be in their classes. I think it is important to tell the student teacher about the student population. Yes, they can gather much of the demographic information from public records and the school website but it is hard to know about the various schools that our students come from. The student teacher needs to know how their class will fit in the students’ overall science experience, the content that the students have covered in their prior classes or schools, and the variety of neighborhoods and cultural groups that the students come from. I also want to give them an overview of the extra-curricular activities that their students might be involved in and any school traditions such as class spirit competitions, homecoming activities, or pep rallies that form the foundations of the fall term. In short, I want them to have a good grasp of their students’ out-of-class experiences. I want to encourage them to participate in some of these activities while maintaining their professional image and stance for students. Specifically, what are the expectations for faculty participation in the culture of the school and how should they balance that with their growing instructional obligations. Finally, I want to give them an overview of the curriculum for the year and a detailed but not overwhelming explanation of the first unit of instruction. This will provide context to their early observations in the classroom and give some structure to their developing roles as a new teacher.

YK: I agree with everything that has been mentioned so far. In addition, I want to spend some time thinking about how I will introduce my student teacher to the students, parents, and other teachers in my department. For many student teachers, this will be one of their first experiences talking to “large” groups of people. Achieving confidence when talking about themselves and what they bring to the class and to teaching can go a long way in establishing their persona for the rest of the year.

It is clear that these young professionals have learned from their recent experiences as new teachers. Their ideas about preparing to host a student teacher speak powerfully of the things that their mentor teachers did for them and suggest things that they feel might have helped them on their journeys into teaching. All of these new teachers recognized the importance of understanding the curriculum that they are expected to teach but even more clear are their thoughts about the importance of becoming part of the school culture, of developing relationships with their students, and transitioning from their roles as students to their new roles as professional educators. As a teacher educator, the biggest challenge I face is facilitating student teachers’ growth in these non-curricular areas. Facility with the content is not nearly as big an issue as understanding what it means to be a teacher. For many, this is their first real professional job. It is a time when they should stop asking someone else “how much, how many, or how often” and instead begin to ask themselves “what just happened, why did it happen that way, and how can I change this outcome?”

As you prepare to host a student teacher, whether it is your first or your twentieth, consider ways to introduce these new teachers to the whole profession of teaching, not simply the act of conveying and assessing information.

Megan McKenzie teaches 9th grade biology in a charter school focused on project based learning; Corey Lee teaches AP Chemistry and Biotechnology in Northern California; Yukako Kawakatsu teaches environmental science and chemistry in a high school in Southern California; Rick Pomeroy is a lecturer at UC Davis School of Education and CSTA’s past president. All four are members of CSTA.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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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.

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

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

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

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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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

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

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.