Saturday, April 17, 2010

Job Fairs: A Worthwhile Adventure

Yesterday I had my first job fair. It was incredibly exciting, a little nerve-wracking, and, generally, exhausting. The process reminded me a lot of what I experience my freshman year at the University of Michigan going through the sorority rush. Recognizing the similarity actually put me at ease. I felt like I had done this before and knew that things work out for the best if I am genuine, ask the right questions, and follow my gut as to what district would work the best for me.

I think one key to the job fair was listening to how recruiters portrayed their school district. It was interesting to see which aspects of district recruiters had determined most important in drawing top candidates and if these points aligned with the school’s mission statement. Further, it was very interesting to note which districts wanted me to sell myself, which districts were trying to sell their self to me, and which districts were somewhere in the middle.

My best experiences during the job fair were ones where I could have a genuine conversation. I wanted to know why someone felt their district was the best. However, I also wanted to know that the district wanted teachers who would work well in their district. I loved being able to talk with folks about what makes them passionate about their home. The points that different people chose to discuss and the ways in which the conversation flowed provided a good introductory picture of the values of their school community.

When I was a freshman, I was looking for a place to call home. I was looking for a group of people who had formed a community with similar values and who invested time in activities that were important to me. Most importantly, I was looking for a group of people with whom I felt a genuine connection. Things worked out great for me in rush. I joined a house that had a high expectation of academic excellence and community involvement. It was a house that valued diversity and encouraged the members to be a part of the sorority community as well as the greater university community. The majority of my best friends today are women I met through my house. What makes these women so special to me cannot really be put into words, but there are three main points. First, we genuinely cared for each other. Second, we all strove to be the best that we could be. Third, we all followed our own path. Each of us had many friends outside of the sorority house. Everyone had different passions and goals that we followed and are still following today. So, at the end of the day, I was part of group that not only valued each other and our relationships, but each other’s individual pursuits. We had and still have so many great conversations about things from so many different points of view. I think the respect we have for our differences as well as our common values has made our friendships continue to be so strong today.

As I search for a new place to call home, I want to make sure that my values align with the district values. I want to makes sure that I can provide evidence of how I accomplished goals and how I continue to improve as a teacher. I also want to make sure the district has real programs or artifacts available that prove the school truly does embody their mission statement. Finally, I want to make sure I find a community where I can continue to have such genuine, worthwhile conversations with enthusiastic, passionate individuals.

Having the opportunity to discuss a school district or a community with recruiters was priceless. I gained an important, human aspect that websites cannot offer. It was pretty easy for me to gage the districts that would be a good fit for me. I left those recruiters feeling a tingling in my stomach and a grin from ear to ear. I know this is only the beginning of the process, but the job fair made me extremely excited about some really great school districts and communities.

Affect in Science

When I was twenty-five, I was thoroughly confused about the direction of my life. I knew things I liked to do, I knew what I didn’t like to do, but I didn’t know which way I should head. So, I sat down and, in line with my science background, analyzed my life. I wrote about the accomplishments in my life that gave me the most satisfaction. I analyzed each event to determine the personal and strategic skills that helped me accomplish those life goals. I theorized about the personal qualities I value in friends, my ideal work environment, and what kind of role I wanted to play in my community. At the heart of this analysis was figuring out my core values.

This in depth period of self-reflection has helped me live a fuller, meaningful, purposeful life. It required a continuous flux between detached analysis and a more emotional awareness. The flux between these two different frameworks has helped me better understand life in general. I still have a ton to learn… but I have learned that perspective, and combining multiple perspectives is vital to see any spec of truth.

Why do bring this idea up in an education blog? Well, I am a science teacher. I was educated in an environment that propagated the belief that science is truth, that science is objective, that science is unemotional. Science can be all of theses things, but it can also be so much more. To ignore the personal element, the societal implications, and the humanity of science is dangerous. I am a firm believer that if one goes to any extreme, the opposite factor will create radical effects. It is extremely important to be aware of all of the influences affecting something or someone. There are numerous examples of science that was once accepted as truth despite shoddy logic because of society’s need to maintain a particular worldview.
I forgot about this complexity while I was studying science in college. In college, science was really truth. We were taught to be objective. We never wrote in the first person. The list goes on and on.

Now, as I am becoming a secondary science teacher, I am awakening again to affective side of science. I love the study of logic. I love learning about the facts and laws of nature. But, I also love finally seeing how complex science really is. It is wonderful to watch that spark go off in a student eyes when they finally understand a particular procedure or why we believe a certain fact. How students feel about their ability to be successful in science is just as important as their actual ability to be successful in science. It is extremely important to me to provided students an opportunity to realize that they can do well in science. If students feel they are capable of success, they can be successful. My goal in teaching science is for every student to feel that science education offers relevant, useful methods of thinking in addition to essential natural phenomena understandings. Every student and teacher needs to have an awareness of the relationship between affect and learning. This relationship does not stop at the classroom, it continues throughout life. It is sooo exciting when students start asking the hard questions, seeing the gray areas, and start feeling excited about their world.

Science education does require students to learn certain facts, laws and theories to be literate in a continuously technological global world. It also requires students to learn how to think about the application and consequences of these facts. I want my students to understand the core, factual knowledge so that they can start to understand how science is inherently integrated within our society. I want them to see how the cyclical, connected process of energy, organic materials, and inorganic materials effects how national policy and complicates conservation efforts. I want them to understand why scientist must always evaluate the ethical and societal implications of new discoveries. I want students to understand that knowledge truly is power and that every action may unintended consequences. I want them to be excited that they live in a world where innovation is not only possible but also highly valued.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chemistry and tech blog

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Working Memory

During one of my recent proffesional development seminars, I learned that many high school seniors have extremely short "spans." A span is the amount of items one can hold in their short term memory at one time. The teacher running the proffessional development seminar said that it is usual for her seniors to have a span of 2. The average adult, today, has a span of 5 to 7. Her argument was that young people do not need to memorize things anymore-- they just jot it in their cell phone for later. I am very interested in this phenomena. As a future biology teacher, I know that students must be able to manipulate multiple vocabulary words at once to build complex ideas. If students are only able to keep two ideas in their head at once, how are they to build the connections between ideas necessary for long term memory retrieval? I love that technology has helped people stay organized and have vasts amounts of information at our fingertips. I think students may need some old school practice, though, on how to think about multiple things at once in order to create thinking schemes. I could be wrong, though. If people have access to technology all of the time, could they use it as pseudo working memory? This new information is particularly important to me because I am in a discipline with many new vocabulary words and facts. I believe these terms and ideas need to clumped into categories, a mental schema, and linked or spiraled to many other concepts for full understanding. However, I was thinking of having roughly five over arching categories each time...I think only two categories could be limiting. I definitely need to do more research on the topic.

Proffesional Develpment

Today at Wayne Memorial we had the chance to attend two seminars on the use of technology in our discipline. I went to the science seminars.

The first one that I attended was using the Xtranormal, text-to-movie website. It is a really great tool for students to use technology in a creative manner to communicate ideas. The website is free, You can determine the characters, setting, camera angles, soundtracks, noises, expressions, movements, and the dialogue. We are using this next week, having students create commercials for organelles. I will post again how it went!

The second seminar I attended was on sequence learning. It was a very interesting project developed by Boston University. The program requires java, a free download, and can be found at Basically, students play the the program to determine their "span" or how many items they can hold in their head at one time. Then, students develop a scientific investigation to understand possible effects or non-effects on people's spans. For instance, a news article came out that blueberries are a brain power food. So, students had a sibling take the test, wait a few hours, eat a quart of blueberries, and take the test again. They would have to determine controls, dependent and independent variables, repeatability, and sources of error. The curriculum was developed because many students can rehearse the steps of the scientific process but can not actually apply it. So, I thought it was a creative way to engage students in the scientific process while gaining self knowledge on learning strategies. (For instance, while introducing the topic, you can mention anagrams, making pictures, clumping, repetition, short term and long term memory processes.) I encourage everyone to check out these sites to see if you may be able to apply them to your class!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I am really excited about the prospects of Ning. Thanks to everyone who contributed to making our class aware of it. I really like the idea of drawing in popular culture to teaching. At times, it seems daunting to fit popular culture in with all the standards we have to hit upon during our lessons. I am kind of worried that I will have to spend so much time teaching bits of information laid out by the standards that I won't be able to spend much time connecting what we have learned to the real world. In my subject, biology, there are so many terms and lower level concepts to learn. They are often hard to grasp for students because it can often seem like a foreign language. So, being able to creatively pull in all the standards and popular culture and high ordered thinking will be a major challenge. I wonder how much freedom teachers feel now with the standards reform and if they really are an explicit explanation of what has always been done or a an attempt to squeeze everything in during the year.  I am excited to see how everything can fit together in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cynicism and Apathy

I have begun to hear a common theme among teachers that worries me. Many note that cynicism and apathy exist in the profession, but I feel that is common theme in many professions. However, each profession has a different trigger for these feelings. It seems cynicism and apathy are often results of frustration. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines frustration as "a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs. To me, frustration is the desire for something you cannot have. It is feeling like you are banging your head against a wall, like an effective change can not occur. Frustration is a belief that you do not have the capabilities to influence your environment to attain desired results. " It seems if cynicism and apathy are a result of frustration, then we need to determine what it is that we as a profession want but are not getting.

Most teachers have an answer for this. I have often heard that teachers who still care spend so much time preparing, trying to creatively engage students, and giving so much of their time and energy to students who continue to fail. I commonly hear the expression, "you can only do so much," or, "you can bring a horse to water, but..." The problem is, it is our job to help students learn and learn how to learn. So, when teachers try as hard as they can using all the tools they have -theories, books, professional development programs, other teacher's resources- and still do not get the desired results, the finger is turned back on the teacher. But teachers do not know what else to do. There is a disconnect between ideals, effort, and results. I believe apathy is a way to protect yourself from the truth, to survive by not pointing any fingers. I believe cynicism is a way to live in a world that does not work as one would hope. It is a way to seperate oneself as a wise person is a world faulty world. It is a way to point the finger the away from oneself.

Either way, as we learned in elementary school, pointing fingers is bad. So, how do I plan to navigate a profession with cynicism and apathy. I need to take advantage of my time studying education to dig deep and determine exactly what my desires are in eduction. What do I feel the purpose is? How do I see the relationship between students and teachers, among students and teachers? What theory of learning do I believe in? Are these goals or beliefs specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or reasonable, believable, and have a realistic time frame? Finally, how do I create an action plan to arrive at these goals or have my students arrive at these goals? To address a plan of action, one must take stock of where things stand, where they came from, and potential future outcomes ripe with intended and unintended consequences.

The educational system is incredible complex. There are so many aspects to consider when assessing the state of our schools. I think, before I am thrust fully into that sphere, I really need to determine where I stand. I understand and highly value the ability to evolve with the new experience and situations I will face during my first year teaching. However, I think it is imperative to start carving out my own belief system so I have a firm footing my first few years. Although taking a stand before being an actual teacher may provide a skewed or biased point of observation based on incomplete information. That is always the case, though. Hopefully my optimistic attitude and natural affinity to finding the positive parts of things will help me along the way.