September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Making the Leap from the Classroom to TOSA

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!

So what has happened during my time as a TOSA in our district over the last two years?  A lot of coordinating, facilitating, resource collecting, and networking!  This has included advocating for science to be clearly represented in the district LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan), sending teachers to CSTA conferences and county workshops, providing in-house professional development planned and facilitated by our BaySci teacher leaders, creating NGSS transition plans for K-5 and grades 6-8, facilitating a Professional Learning Network to develop academic discourse in science instruction, designing and teaching model science lessons, giving presentations at staff meetings, School Board meetings, Superintendent Advisory and Lay Advisory meetings, teaching a science-based summer PBL workshop through the extended education department at our local university, networking with non-formal science organizations, and collaborating with a team to plan and implement a program for primary teachers at the fall 2015 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento.

The overlap with science and the common core state standards may also be a unique aspect of my TOSA position. As I work in the Education Services Department, I have involvement in many other programs and projects such as K-12 Curriculum, Professional Learning Networks, Technology, and more.  Not only do I wear my science hat into these other elements of the district, but I am also able to help make unifying connections throughout all of them. The commonalities Venn diagram created by Tina Chuek from Stanford, for example, has been a big influence on our district as we work to infuse and embed common core practices across the grades and subject areas.

This TOSA position is year-to-year depending on funding.  I have no idea what school or grade level I will land in, if and when, this job is over.  But that unknown has been well worth the risk.  I have had a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in learning about science instruction during this historical transition in content and pedagogy. I have loved being able to support teachers in my district to develop in their instructional practices in science, and it will be so exciting to see the impact of the NGSS on students in the not-so-distant future!

Kirsten Franklin is a Teacher on Special Assignment for the Petaluma City School District and is a member 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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

One Response

  1. I’m applying for a literacy TOSA position in a local school district. I’ve been in the classroom for nearly 7 years and am looking for a new challenge. If you don’t mind me asking, what type of questions were you asked during your interview. I want to make a good impression, but don’t quite know how to prepare for the interview. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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Written by Peter AHearn

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