2020Science in the City: 2020

May 21, 2020

How to know if you are successful as a teacher

How to know if you are successful as a teacher

One of the down sides of teaching is that you may never feel like you have done enough. It can be overwhelming. Particularly now, when we are doing distance learning and transitioning to new methods of teaching, in many cases while taking on responsibilities at home with our own children, it may not feel like you are “doing a good job” or “being successful.”

First of all, there are answers, and no hard rules right now for what you should be doing. All bets are off. You are doing enough. You are doing your best to help your students and take care of yourself. You are doing it right.

So how do you measure success? Many of our common measures of teaching success are not fair to teachers (as well know), or only tell part of the story. For example, test scores. We all know about that. Many of these ‘measures’ are out of our control and influenced by so many other factors, that they are really not measuring teachers’ success at all. 

How to know if you are successful as a teacher

So how do you measure and evaluate your own success?

This question came up in our Facebook Group a while ago, and I would like to share some of those responses here, as well as add a few others that are specific to some of the more recent events.

From the Facebook Group

  • From member Louette McInnes: New teachers take note. When I started teaching, an experienced teacher told me that if I had 'one really great lesson a day', that was success. He also said it would take me a year to get one course set up so I knew it would be really successful and do what I wanted it to do. He was right.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others - look at your own progress, look at the interactions and progress that you can see with individual kids
  • Are kids respectful (for the most part), are they engaged? Are they learning?
  • Are they thinking?
  • What do they know that they weren’t able to do when they came to you?
  • And more in this post

In addition, right now, some things are more important than academics.

  • Are you building or maintaining relationships with your students (and their families)?
  • Are you working to meet your students needs (both academic and otherwise), while taking care of yourself?
  • Are you helping students to make some progress, within their other constraints?
  • Are you doing the best you can? Not giving up? Trying some creative ideas, even if they don’t all work? Taking some risks with the hope of improving?
Then you are successful as a teacher!

Keep building relationships, keep thinking, being creative, and building relationships with your students and the rest will come. Teaching is not a place for instant gratification. You won’t start your teaching career, or your school year, and have it all be successful. It’s a slower process. You will make gradual gains, and have ups and downs. But over the long haul, as you look back, you will absolutely see signs that you have been successful!!

May 7, 2020

Integrating Math and Science in the Classroom

It’s easy to focus on teaching just our curriculum. But often, in science class, we are expecting students to be able to use certain math skills but in actuality, their math skills may be a big source of struggle.

As teachers, there is always a balance between teaching students our content area, and following the curriculum, but also teaching students other core skills that they will need for our class or for others. I am often asked about how to integrate more math into science class. Here are five strategies that I have found to be helpful.




Five Strategies to Integrate Math into Science Class

  1. Talk to your math teachers; find common ground on how you are teaching the content. It is confusing to students if we are teaching the same or very similar concepts but using different language, or slightly different instructions. Pull out key math concepts that you need the kids to know and talk to your math teachers. Find out if they cover those topics. At what grade level, how do they already teach it? This might include things like graphing, solving a proportion, converting units, or basic algebraic equations. Kids have a hard enough time transferring skills between classes, or retaining what they learn and applying it outside of class. Any time we can put in working with the math teachers to come up with a common language and skill set will absolutely benefit both of us.
  2. Utilize opportunities to talk about number sense and practice if the answers make sense. Kids are often so stuck on doing the steps, and getting an answer, often using a calculator, that they don’t stop to think about their answer and consider if it makes sense. I like to put a stop to this, if possible, by starting the concept or math lesson with very easy numbers, and not letting them use a calculator. Keep the numbers SUPER easy so they build up some confidence and focus on the topic.
  3. When it gets too complicated, it’s ok to use a calculator. After they’ve gotten the idea, I think it’s ok to use a calculator. Many times, kids get frustrated and overwhelmed by the numbers. If, in fact, they will be able to use a calculator going forward, then I think it’s ok for them to use a calculator moving forward in the class, and they have an understanding, then allow them to focus on the concept.
  4. If there is a good climate for collaboration, take it one step further. Work with your math colleagues to use some of your data from science class for math. This can be done in many parts of math class, practicing graphing, data analysis, and more. Here is a great example Successful Math and Science Teacher Collaboration: The Administrator's Role
  5. Last, but absolutely not least, build up students’ math confidence. Many students can do the calculations, but they struggle to feel confident and to be comfortable applying their knowledge, particularly in a new situation. I cannot overstate how important it is for kids to feel comfortable. They will more willing to practice and take risks if they feel more comfortable.
I would love to hear if any of these tips help you, or what other suggestions you have to integrate math and science in your classroom. Feel free to comment below!
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