For most teachers and scholars, this post is about two or three months late. However, since I work at a charter school with an extended school year, I’m finally out of school for the next several weeks! At this point, I am just so very, very relieved to have some time off to recharge [physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally]; and to fully reconnect with family, friends, and my social networks.
2012-2013 was, overall, a wonderful year for me. I began my second year of teaching at the same school with a new superintendent, two sets of new administration, and a summer’s worth of training based on the book, “Teach Like A Champion“. The year definitely had its challenges, but it was not as difficult or as overwhelming like my first year of teaching. I have to credit my administration and colleagues for its success. Their constant feedback and support definitely made a large difference this year. The following paragraphs are a compilation of feedback from administration, scholars and my own reflections from the school year.
Major Challenges and Highlights of the Year
- As shared staff (read: the only 7th grade science teacher), I had to divide my school year between two middle schools. Crammed a year’s worth of 7th Grade Life Science curricula into 5 months. Taught the 5-month curricula twice to 45+ 7th Grade female scholars from September to February, and then to 45+ 7th Grade male scholars from February to July.
- Was accepted to the National Science Association New Science Teacher Academy in November (NSTA2). Juggled weekly forum discussions, web seminars, and two semester-long action research projects on analyzing student work and designing effective inquiry labs while teaching full-time.
- Got engaged to my military man in December!
- Attended the annual NSTA science conference at San Antonio, TX, in April. Saw many wonderful sessions, thanked our DOW sponsors in person for their generous contributions in the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy, and befriended many fantastic science educators during my time there.
Mid-year and End-of-Year Evaluations
- Received many 3.5’s and 4’s on my teacher evaluations! This meant a lot to me personally because I had a horrible first year, and I took every opportunity to practice this year to strengthen my classroom management. While we received training on many “Teach Like A Champion” (TLAC) techniques year-round, I really focused on 3 main techniques each day–100%, Break the Plane, and No Opt-Out. It is very critical, I found, to insist (and to do it consistently) on having 100% active attention from everyone before teaching or doling out instructions. It sets the tone for learning in class.
- According to the class surveys, practicing these main techniques every day paid off ! 100% of survey respondents listed my ability to teach difficult concepts in multiple ways and give instructions clearly as one of my greatest strengths as a teacher.
Positives (these are common phrases that popped up from student surveys)
- “strong classroom management”
- “not afraid to let us do stuff [open inquiry labs]”
- “print-rich environment–always has our work posted”
- “provides clear instructions”
- “a nice teacher, but strict!”
- “a loud talker, but rarely yelled”
- “makes it easy to learn because [she] explains a concept in many different ways”
- “treats us all with same expectations/treats us fairly”
- “uses lots of examples [so I can understand]”
- “gives us choices and second chances [if we screw up]”
Deltas (things I’d like to improve on for next year)
- update the curriculum to more rigorous and challenging materials (thinking of layered curriculum, choice menus, and more true open-inquiry labs)
- work on incorporating more hands-on labs, especially dissections (even if only virtual!)
- tie topics of study in with more real-world connections (thinking of “Current Events Day” in the computer lab with articles on current topic)
- encourage a more collaborative and productive learning environment (thinking of redoing groupwork roles and using accountable talk)
Summer Reading (books and topics I’d like to read up on during vacation)
- “First 20 Days” by Fisher and Frey (collaborative work)
- Experiment design diagram
- Accountable talk
- Nunley’s layered curriculum
- NGSS standards
- science cafes
- “STEM Student Research Handbook” by Harland
- the Genius Hour
- interactive science notebooks