January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

So How Is That Science Teaching Job Working Out for You?

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

You made it! You dreamed about it all through student teaching – the chance to have your very own classroom. You have set it up just the way you want, you have put together a strong classroom management plan, and you have designed fabulous, creative lessons. It is smooth sailing from here on out…right?

Well, just in case your teaching career is not going quite as effortlessly as you had imagined, you are in good company. Many new teachers find that the realities of a full time teaching job can be even more difficult than their time spent student teaching. However, with a little patience and support you can be on your way to a successful and enjoyable school year. The following are some ideas to help you get there:

Create a Support-System and Use It

In my 16 years as a BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support & Assessment) support provider, I have worked with two kinds of new teachers – those who ask for help and those who do not. The ones who ultimately have the most difficult first year are those who do not ask. What new teachers do not seem to realize is that, although they are hesitant to communicate to their bosses and fellow teachers that they do not know everything, no boss or veteran teacher expects them to know everything. In fact, most seasoned teachers will tell them that collaborating with colleagues about best practices helps both parties become better teachers. Lauren Fromm, 2nd year teacher at Bear Creek High School at Lodi Unified points out that even though she feels like she is somehow “being a pain” when she asks for help, everyone she has talked to is more than willing to lend a hand. Asking for help can save you precious time and “brain power,” which are often in limited supply for new instructors.

You have probably already spent sometime with your fellow science department or grade level teachers. These people are essential in helping you decide what curriculum to teach and how to teach it. They can inform you about the availability of equipment, consumables, technology, and textbooks. And while teacher colleagues are vital resources, there are other staff members who can make the time in your new job easier if you give them the opportunity to do so. Cultivate genuine relationships with school secretaries and custodians. These behind the scenes employees are invaluable assets when it comes to helping you submit paper work, arrange for substitutes, repair equipment, and make schedule changes.

Make the Most of BTSA

All first and second year teachers in California are required to complete an induction program. Most will complete BTSA. Ideally the emphasis is on support and you have been assigned to a provider who is willing to give you the time and care you need to thrive during your first (and second) year. The most effective support providers know when to move you forward with the actual BTSA content and when to back off and just let you talk about the issues with which you are currently dealing. Lauren Fromm says she focuses on the positive aspects of the program, for example, one of the Benchmarks requires that she write a little something about each student. This makes her think about what she knows about their interests, strengths, and weaknesses and has led her to realize that she needs to make more of an effort to talk to her students. It should be helpful to know that the people who run the BTSA programs across the state want you to be successful. My experience is that BSTA staff will move mountains to help new teachers finish the program successfully.

Get Connected

Sometimes e-mail is sent to every employee in the school district – except you. Do you even realize that you are not receiving e-mails? More than likely this is occurring because you have not been added to group e-mail folders.   Michel Perez, first year teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District realized that she was not in the e-mail loop when a fellow teacher mentioned to her that she needed a document turned into her principal by the next day. Michel had no idea what the colleague was referring to. Be proactive. If you have a BTSA support provider or other mentor, ask them to contact the necessary people to help you get connected. If that is not possible, ask your department or grade level chair to notify the appropriate people for you. Going directly to the school secretaries or administration and asking them to place you in group e-mail folders is also an option as is asking them to contact district personnel to correct the situation. Meanwhile, request that another teacher forward to you any pertinent correspondences until the issue is resolved.

Time for a Break

Take a break? You can’t possibly take a break! You have five different science classes to prep, a staff meeting after school, and BTSA paperwork to finish. Rick Pomeroy, Supervisor of the Science Credential Program at the University of California at Davis says that “being expected to do way more things than their schedules have time for” often frustrates new teachers   But, as busy as you are you must find some time for yourself. Even though you have responsibilities to your employer, students, and family, none of them wants you become mentally and physically exhausted. You know deep down that the time you take to turn your brain off of work will pay off in much more productive time afterwards. Brooke Beckett of Galt High School in the Galt High School District encourages new teachers to plan time for themselves to do something fun. She says, “The first year is the hardest and you don’t want to burn out.”

Even though your first year of teaching may be a challenge, in no time you will find yourself facing your second year – more knowledgeable, more confident, and more relaxed. You will always remember your first year in the teaching profession and I hope the memories are good ones.

Thank you to Brooke Beckett – Computer Applications, Principles of Engineering, Digital and Video Production, General Science, and Physics at Galt High School in the Galt High School District, Lauren Fromm – College Prep. and AP Biology, Bear Creek High School in the Lodi Unified School District, Michel Perez – 7th Grade Science at McCaffrey Middle School in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Rick Pomeroy – Science Credential Program School of Education at University of California, Davis. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.