Science Learning Team

Learning to blog in science class


March 27, 2011 by · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

Screenagers is a cute descriptive name for our technology engrossed teenagers.  I heard someone say that we have to learn to recognize them by the top of their heads now, because they are always looking down at the technology in their hands. My mother wrote beautiful letters to a number of people, including her children when they were away at school.  My generation loves to talk on the phone.  My daughter prefers that I send her information in emails. Now my older grandchildren don’t quickly respond to my emails, but I can text them for a very rapid reply.  What will their children do to communicate?

Facebook is in the process of revolutionizing communication in this age.  I love seeing what my former students are up to, seeing pictures of their kids, and reading of their accomplishments.  I also enjoy reading links that my friends and colleagues post about interesting ideas.  This also allows me to share things that are important to me.  However the best thing for me about Facebook has been re-establishing connections with high school and college classmates, and getting to know relatives that I had never been able to see often.  I have one cousin that I have never even met, yet I have come to know well through our posts.  But how did Facebook become so much a part of our lives?  Whatever happened to MySpace?  Why did one overpower the other?

Google is another modern phenomena.  I remember well when it was a brand new search engine.  Before Google, I was really proud of my knowledge of Dogpile, a meta-search engine.  But the presence of a Google search bar on my web browser has guaranteed my constant use of it, and I hadn’t used Dogpile in several years until I checked to see if it was still there while writing this post.  It is still a good search engine, because it checks Google, along with Yahoo, Bing,, and probably several others.  So I added it to my bookmark bar so I will remember to check it.  But Google is ubiquitous, and has of course now become part of our vocabulary as we “google” everything we want to know more about.

What will be the next GREAT TECHNOLOGY?  What is going to change our lives in this decade?  I just bought my husband an ipad for his birthday.  (It was only fair, since he bought me a Macbook for my birthday a year ago, but I will confess to great ipad envy right now!  I want one too!)  Will the next game changer be a gadget or an application?  (Or will texting while driving wipe out too many of the younger generation before they can change the world?)  What do you think?

Literacy in Science

January 18, 2011 by · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

Do I have to be a reading teacher along with everything else? Well . . . . yes. Science is a bigger reading challenge than most subjects anyway. The vocabulary is killer!   Your students need extra motivation to improve their science-related reading.  The article Literacy in Science: A Natural Fit, by Janet Creech and Gina Hale in the February 2006 The Science Teacher offers some suggestions for possible inquiry based strategies. Do you think any of these would work in your classrooms? Why or why not, and would you consider trying one? Which one is your favorite?

Bright Ideas

December 12, 2010 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Wow, it is time to say goodbye to the spring cohort already.  I really hate to tell these teachers goodbye, as they have been an extraordinary group. It has been satisfying to watch them gain experience and confidence.   They are all dedicated, competent, and sharing teachers.  They come to learning team consistently, pay attention, work together in groups, and are always willing to share ideas with the newer teachers.  We will all miss them, but there are also lots of good people in the fall cohort who are already developing confidence.  In the past, I have had learning team members do a final assignment developing a powerpoint of “What next year’s learning team needs to know.”  This year they will be asked to post on this blog instead.  The blog response should be a place for them to share their best ideas.  It can be a slick trick for managing instruction, a lab idea, a great website, or just a bright idea about teaching.  Each person should share at least one best idea, but can share as many as they like.  So, good luck teachers – and thanks for everything you do for students.

Spring Fever

April 29, 2010 by · 18 Comments · Uncategorized

I have always had really mixed feelings about this time of year as a teacher.  First of all, I am just as susceptible to spring fever as my students.  Nice weather, tons of fun things to do on the weekends, and the excitement of knowing that summer is right around the corner combine to make me daydream a bit and to have difficulty focusing on what needs to be done.  It is a nice feeling to be on that “downhill slope” of the school year.  We start each new school year with a lot of excitement, anticipation, and hope for a great year.  By the time spring break arrives we are just pretty much ready to get it over with!

The other side of spring though is the pressure that we feel to “finish” – finish the book, finish the syllabus, finish the lesson plans, finish what we need to teach this year!  Life always gets in the way of our plans, and we often don’t go as fast as we had intended.  At this time of year there also seem to be a number of sports teams that have to leave school early or miss the whole day for games, meets, and district and state finals.  And for the teachers who double as coaches that adds a lot of intensity.  Add in the field trips and conventions that are scheduled after testing, and it is hard to get a quorum of students in class on many days.

Then there is the pressure on students who are not doing well and in danger of failing.  You want to make sure to give them every opportunity to succeed, but how far can you go?  Do you give extra credit opportunities or let them make up work?  Do you give re-takes on tests?  Do you contact parents?

So how do you cope with all of this?  I always had to remind myself to relax and not get up tight about what doesn’t get done.  I sometimes assigned projects to cope with the absences, because those who were present could work on them in class and those who were absent could do them at home.  (My end of the year Human Body Project was born out of the necessity to cover human anatomy and physiology in one week!)  I usually offered some extra credit projects and encouraged those who were on the line to do them, but lots of teachers disagree with that practice.

The end of the school year will come whether we OR the students are ready for it, so it is important to take a little time to reflect on our attitude and our decisions.  How will YOU get there with your sanity intact?!

Web 2.0

March 22, 2010 by · 22 Comments · Uncategorized

Are you fashion-forward or fashion-challenged? Do you keep up with the latest styles or love what’s comfy? Do we respond to new technologies the same way? It is easy to stay in our comfort zone, but it that the best approach for our future? Do we have a responsibility to our students to embrace new technologies? Or should we stay with what is tried and true?

Super Bowl of Teaching

February 8, 2010 by · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

Watching the game tonight, I was thinking about all the preparation that goes into the Super Bowl.  That is true for the football players,  coaches, cheerleaders, and management for both teams.  It is also true for the host city, from the stadium management to the hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, taxi’s, etc.  Then there are all the fans of both teams, the TV network and announcers, the advertisers, and the performers in the half time show.  Watching all the “color” stories in the last week or so reminded me of all the preparation that the local retailers made for this game – grocery stores stocking extra supplies of popular party foods, (and I’m sure LOTS of adult beverages!)  and the sporting good stores stockpiling the Super Bowl Champion caps and shirts, to say nothing of the restaurants planning to close and the bars planning to stay open!! 

So to what can we compare this in the world of education?  Well, just about ANYTHING in education requires detailed preparation in order to reach our goals.  The thing that first comes to mind is the TEST, and by that I mean whatever state dictated test affects your particular students.  It seems that almost everything revolves around NCLB these days, and all the preparation that is dictated by powers above is focused on the TEST.  It may be the GEE, the LEAP, and soon the end of course test, but the uniting factor is that we don’t individually have control over the nature of the TEST and we have to prepare as other people think we should.  That can certainly lead to frustration, but maybe if we view it like the football team views the Super Bowl, we can find the incentive and the courage to prepare in a positive way.

But the mandated standardized TEST is not the only thing that requires preparation worthy of Super Bowl comparison.  Each new school year, each unit, even each lesson,  requires our time and effort.  The reward?  – not a Vince Lombardi trophy, but something more important.  The reward is every student who succeeds.  Some succeed by getting a degree (and a job) in science.  Some succeed by having a different attitude toward science as something fascinating and “doable” even if it isn’t their thing.  Some succeed by enjoying your class and learning something, even when they didn’t expect to enjoy it.  Some succeed even when they barely pass, because they have a variety of challenges that make it difficult for them.  And you don’t always know about their successes.  If you are lucky, you will hear from some of them later, and they will tell you how your class affected them, but mostly you will never know.  So in that aspect it definitely doesn’t have the instant gratification of a Super Bowl win.  But you know, I think I would rather have those successes than a Super Bowl ring.   

So what do you think?  What is the Super Bowl analogy for you?

New Year’s Resolutions

December 17, 2009 by · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

Lose 10 pounds, cut back on coffee (or diet coke, or beer, or  ….), be nicer to that annoying co-worker, read more books, etc.  Just as we make personal resolutions regarding things we want to change in the new year, we as teachers often do a little soul-searching at the end of the semester while thinking ahead to the new semester.  According to Confucious, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Reflection is crucial for educators.  If we don’t think about what we are doing and how it is working, we can go on making the same mistakes over and over.  Or even if things are going well, we may not know WHY they are going well, and therefore be unable to duplicate the process in a new year.  While we are racing through the semester, reflection time is hard to come by.  We are too busy thinking about the next lesson plan, or test, or activity, or all the things we have to do at home.  That makes this time of year an important one.  Yes, I know there are presents to buy and wrap, trips to take, cooking and cleaning to do.  But after Christmas comes a brief lull – just a few days to reflect, consider, and plan.  We should be sure to use a little bit of that time to think about our successes and failures, the things that have been working and those that haven’t been working, and try to analyze why.  ”Seeing yourself as you want to be is the key to personal growth.” anonymous For first year teachers, it is an opportunity to catch your breath, probably for the first time all year, and figure out how you want to be!  For all teachers, it is a fresh start.  Even if your classes are all the same as first semester, you are free to change things now.  Besides, a little shaking up can raise the kids interest level.  New routines and procedures, new behavior management ideas, and new methods of instruction are ready to be tried.  Or maybe you decide you like the way things are going and you DON’T want to change.  That’s okay too,  if it is truly based on reflection and not just taking the easy path.  Sometimes the best scenery is just off the edge of the trail.

Back to School

August 10, 2009 by · 13 Comments · Uncategorized

The beginning of a new school year – eagerly awaited by parents but coming way too soon for teachers!  No matter how much you love to teach, the summers just keep getting shorter and shorter.  Teaching is such a demanding profession that you have to try to make sure your battery gets recharged in the summer.  When everyone is busy trying to become “highly qualified” and taking classes or workshops in the summer, or when finances dictate a summer job or two, it is sometimes hard to get the down time you need. 

One of the things that we always should make time for is reflection.  For me personally, the best and easiest time for reflection is while walking.  Then I can “multi-task”  and improve my health and my attitude at the same time.  It’s a good way to keep everything in perspective.  I can mull over my successes and failures and try to figure out WHY they worked or didn’t.  I can think about what I want to accomplish and how I can work toward those goals.  And sometimes it is when I can work through anger or disappointment and let go of it once and for all.  (So if you see me walking along and talking to myself, I am probably fussin’ and cussin’ and getting it all out of my system.) 

The new teachers I work with are probably feeling pretty overwhelmed right now, and reflection is the last thing on their mind.    SURVIVAL is the operative word this week!  But hopefully they can take a few minutes at the end of each day to celebrate their successes.  We will work together to increase the number of successes and figure out why some of those wonderful lessons they planned didn’t work. 

Each new year brings new challenges and new opportunities, whether you are a new teacher or a recycled one.  I hope your year gets off to a wonderful start!

Endings and Beginnings

May 7, 2009 by · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

The end of a school year evokes varied feelings.  Obviously there is relief (for both teachers AND students) mixed with anticipation for a summer bound by less rigid schedules.  Even if you are working during the summer, it is rarely as physcially and emotionally demanding as the school year.  Now if you are a parent of young children, there may be a little fear mixed in as well – boredom sets in pretty quickly for them! 

But it is a time for introspection as well.  We almost always have regrets of some sort.  There was a student we just couldn’t reach, some material we didn’t cover adequately, less than perfect classroom management, or some disappointing final grades.  We shouldn’t dwell on them, but this is a perfect time to make a few notes to ourselves about what we will do differently next year.  But don’t forget to cherish the good moments as well – the flowers that DID bloom.

And wow, it passed much more quickly than we ever thought it would.  Now, there are new beginnings to which we can look forward.  There will be new students, new classes, new colleagues, and maybe even new schools.  There will be new ideas, new materials, and new plans.  Summer is a time for recharging batteries.  I hope you find interesting workshops to attend, fun things to do with your family, and quality time with your friends,  Good luck – it’s been a great year in learning team! 

Sowing and Reaping

April 5, 2009 by · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

I have spent a big chunk of this beautiful weekend working in my yard, which I DON’T love, but I do enjoy how it looks when I finish!  (Not that it is ever really finished, but  . . .)   It reminds me a bit of what we do with our students.  We spend a lot of time sowing seeds:  seeds of knowledge, seeds of skills, seeds of power, seeds of caring, seeds of love.  Even when we love our subject and our students, it is not always enjoyable to do the drudgery part of grading, preparing tests, and making lesson plans.  And classroom interaction isn’t fun when all the kids do is fuss and complain, or worse yet ignore you.  And sometimes it is downright awful when you feel you aren’t getting through at all and they are making you crazy to boot. 

But then those seeds start sprouting, or at least a few of them do, and somebody turns in a great paper, and someone else actually studies for a test and does better than you expect them to do.  Or maybe a parent thanks you for working with their child, or tells you how much their child likes your class.   Maybe a lab or an activity goes particularly well, and you see some light bulbs going on in their heads.   Perhaps someone pulls up their grade and manages to pass, or even better.  Those are flowers, and we can treasure them to get us through until the next “harvest”.

And years later, when you least expect it, some of those sprouting seeds have grown into plants with beautiful flowers and excellent fruit.  You may or may not know about it, but the knowledge that it does happen keeps us teaching, or gardening.