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.