September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

The Benefits of Mentoring (for New Teachers and Veterans)

Posted: Monday, December 3rd, 2012

by Amanda L. Smith

Pairing an experienced teacher with a new teacher can be a great way to boost a new teacher’s confidence and provides multiple levels of support including content guidance, classroom management assistance, and many others. The first few years of teaching are potentially stressful but with the support of veteran teachers and a good mentoring program, they can be successful and rewarding. Even if you’ve already completed your Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program (BTSA), or you are a veteran teacher who has recently changed schools, you can still benefit from learning from other teachers at your school.

Your school may or may not have a formal mentoring program, but you should never hesitate to ask for help from someone in your grade level, department, or subject area. When I stepped into a classroom nine years ago I felt lost and confused, like I was climbing a mountain uphill in the snow every day. I often came home frustrated, and wished I had a friend or colleague to talk to about my grueling workdays. Once I was assigned a BTSA mentor teacher, things became much easier. I not only had someone to talk to, but I was able to run ideas past her and ask for guidance with lesson plans, classroom management, and dealing with parents. I soon earned my Clear Credential, and taught successfully for a handful of years. I also found having a mentor teacher meant I could ask them to come and observe me teach a lesson, and ask for feedback even if they weren’t in my own subject area. It was a great way to engage in conversations about important topics such as effective instruction strategies, gain trusted advice regarding tough situations with individual students, and how to successfully approach difficult parent situations.

Several years later, though, I moved to a different school and I felt like a first year teacher all over again. Changing schools was a drastic switch, as I went from public high school teaching Honors Biology and LEP Life Science, to a private middle school/high school teaching half day 9-12th grade Earth Science and Anatomy/Physiology, and half day teaching 6th and 8th grade Earth Science and Physical Science. In addition, the student population was very different than at my previous school. My new school was very small and I was the only science teacher, so I was hesitant to ask for help at first. However, I eventually reached out and was able to collaborate with other teachers in my grade level, and the English teacher and Math teacher were very helpful. In retrospect I realize it was still tremendously beneficial to talk to other veteran teachers even though they weren’t science teachers.

I have been in the classroom for nine years, but there are still many times when I ask for advice from my grade level team. As a mentor teacher for the new middle school teachers coming into my charter school, I have seen both sides of the process, and can tell you first-hand that it works! Asking for help or mentoring will allow you to make stronger connections with your colleagues as well as your students.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member of CSTA.

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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.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

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.