Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaching Teaching Teaching

So I am now a high school biology teacher! I got thrown into the mix last Monday and am teaching 5 sections of 9th and 10th grade biology. We have spent the last week on plants and will wind down with a test this friday. After a long labor day weekend we will start fresh with animals. And the students better be ready. My interest in teaching was peaked as a TA for the animal diversity lab, so the students are really getting my passion in the upcoming weeks. Im excited to give them a challenge as I hope to push them to some of the same standards I had for the animal diversity students.

I am also very excited because tomorrow (wednesday) I get to start sharing a little bit about me within the curriculum. We are discussing the effect of climate on plants and many of the pictures I will use in my mini-lecture are from my own travels. More importantly, some of those pictures are from Itasca! Hopefully they respond the material as well as I hope they do.

Otherwise, everything is going well. Classroom management is the most challenging part of the job, since it just takes time. Time for the students to get the procedures down. Time for me to learn how my students operate. Time for us all to get systems in place that best suit how we can learn together. But I am being patient and taking it one day at a time.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I should be so lucky...

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I have a car. I dont think twice about having problems getting anywhere. I never have. My parents were always willing to drive me places. I had older friends that had cars. Once I turned 16, I always had a car to drive whether it be mine or mom and dad's. I was reminded of this fact the other day when making calls for conferences. I called the dad of one of my advisees to set up a time for conferences, but I was unable to schedule a conference with him not because he had to work, but because their family is currently restricted to the bus system. Getting from the city out to a private school in the 'burbs is not the easiest to do without a car. It was just a reminder as to how lucky I have been to never have to worry about getting around.

On a lighter note, I offer a great quote on behalf of one of my students. Every day the students have a school-wide "Word of the Day." A few days ago the word was explicit. On their worksheets the students need to use the word in a sentence. This is one sentence I received: "The Volcano was so explicit it exploded." Oh, Matt.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Can you say "Ooooof"

WOW! What a trip it has been. I never thought I would be so busy! Orientation finished up last week and I was wiped. We went hard for two strait weeks, learning about teaching theory, classroom management and created out classes. We even went on a overnight camping trip at Lake Elmo. The whole orientation experience was good. I got to know all the teachers and got to craft my two sweet classes.

The main class is my “Icons of Science” class. This class covers the history of science. I decided that in order to be a good scientist, you need to understand where science came from. This is the approach I decided to take with my core class. We will start out learning about where the scientific method came from, then go on to Newton and Darwin (among others) and finish the class with looking at current developments in science. We are even planning on having a debate between Darwin and Lamarck! Rob (another teacher) and I are going to dress up and combine our classes that day and debate in front of our classes. The students will then write up their thoughts about the debate and choose a winner.

My other class is called Bear Grylls: A BSP Story. This class will introduce the students to camping. We will show them how to pitch a tent, cook food over a fire and how to use a compass. I thought this would be a great class for a bunch of city kids. I have the pleasure of co-teaching with Noam Wiggs, who is an avid camper as well so it should be a blast!

Most importantly, today was the first day of class with the students. I got up a 5:30 AM (the earliest I have woken up in many years) in order to get to work by 6:45. After meeting with the other teachers, fumbling over the Breakthrough Cheer and handshake, the students arrived on the scene in full force. We took some time to meet all of them and then it was off to class.

There was a huge variation between these middle schoolers! Some of them are as tall as I am, some of them don’t seem to be much bigger than a my-size Barbie. Some are super talkative, some I scarcely heard a “peep” out of during class. Of course, we also have the usual students who do not participate and those who are model students. Im sure after the first few weeks everybody will have come out of their shell (its hard not to in this program).

The one thing I really am getting into with this program is its enthusiasm. The students have a cheer for everything! We created a program cheer that at first I was irritated with, but now its great. I am also finding myself getting students really excited about the cheer too! Ugh, I’m turning into a cheerleader (not that I have anything against that- if you would have seen me in the stands of my high school football games, you would know that I was really into the cheers!). Its just more proof that Breakthrough is taking over my life…

Anyway, I’ve got to get some sleep before tomorrow. Day two awaits me!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our "orientation?" Perhaps it is our "Disorientation?"

Today was the first day of our two week long orientation. Amongst the usual mission statements, ritual learning and paper-work I got wind of some real exciting news. I along with another teacher, Noam, will be teaching a Camping/Outdoor Survival Class! When given some time to brainstorm, I believe we got a really good base for a course plan. We will spend some time with basic camping techniques- pitching a tent, starting a fire and purifying water. We will then move on to campfire cooking. The students will then take some time and learn how to use a compass and complete an orienteering course. In the spirit of Andres Morantes, we will also take a few days and do some plant identification! Given enough time, we will also look at some extreme situations and how to get out of them (i.e. broke down in a snow storm, lost in the woods with a broken leg, etc).

The most interesting thing of the orientation so far is how Jennifer, the program coordinator, is carrying out our workshops. Lately I feel like I have been treated like a child when at the program, but today I realized that she is teaching us how she would teach the middle schoolers. This way we can pick up on things we can and may need to do with our students. So far she has had us present concepts in the form of graphical representations, we have used small white-boards to give answers to questions, and of course we have played the ever popular "popcorn" reading game. Besides those class participation ideas, she has also demonstrated a few techniques for getting a roaring class to pay attention again. The one most commonly used is when the teacher says "If you can hear me clap once" in a normal voice and then everyone needs to clap. Then the teacher goes on to say "If you can hear me clap twice" in a louder voice. Then everybody should clap twice. Usually by that time, all the students are back and paying attention to the teacher. If not, the teacher can go on to clapping three and four times until the entire class is paying attention.

All in all, its nice to have begun the internship. Many of the teachers are beginning to stress a little which is ok given the amount of work that needs to be done over the next two weeks. We need to create our elective classes. We need to plan two core classes and start breaking them down into units and lesson plans. We need to start forming committees and getting the various summer long activities planned. On top of that we need to learn how to deal with middle schoolers- they are a little crazy. As I alluded to in the title, its a little disorientating at the moment, but hopefully in the next few days our work will become more organized and our summer will begin to take shape.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Aiming high-Grad Schools

So, I graduated a few days a ago...sort of. I call it my pseudo-graduation. I have managed to complete all the degree requirements for my Ecology, Evolution and Behavior major and my Psychology minor. To be a teacher though, I need a few other classes which I will finish up over the next year. Seems as though to be a teacher you need to be a little more well rounded in biology than I am currently. On the plus side, this will allow me to take a Philosophy of Science class and Jim Cotner's beer class (not a requirement for teaching school). The extra year before graduate school wont hurt either. I get to teach another biology class because of it and have a little extra time to search for teaching programs other than the one at the University of Minnesota.

Searching for teaching programs is quite an interesting endeavor. I've always assumed I would just enter into the M.Ed./ Initial Licensure Program for Secondary Science Education at the U but given the 22 years I've already spent in Minnesota I think it may be time for a change of scenery. I think I will aim high this time around when searching for schools. Columbia's Teachers College is one of the best education schools in the country and its science education program sounds solid. Stanford's STEM program sounds wonderful and the plethora of financial aid doesn't hurt either. I have also wanted to attend Stanford ever since visiting the campus in high school. I was very impressed with Johns Hopkins SIMAT program which is all based around a year long internship. Northwestern is highly ranked, but seems to follow a traditional practicum and student teaching format-not much different than that of the of U of M. On the upside, the school much closer to home than Stanford, Johns Hopkins or Columbia. I suppose some more research and contact with the programs are needed before I decide my fate.

Closer to home I have options as well. The U's program is top notch and given my SEPGM (Science Education Partnership for Greater Minnesota) internship which was a partnership between the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Education, I have a pretty good shot at getting in. Hamline has a great science teaching program and it focuses a lot on environmental education which I would like to get into. There is also the Saint Paul Teaching Fellows program which sounds similar to Teach for America, just within Saint Paul Public Schools. That would allow me to start making money next year, which would be great since I've already spent a boatload of my parents' money.

In other-words, I have some pondering to do. Within the next few weeks I will be bombarded with heaps of literature on all the different programs to help my decision making. Boy will I feel cool getting mail from such prestigious schools! Also, apparently Stanford's program requires the GRE, so I suppose I better get studying for that.

Ready, Set, Grab Your Mops!

Welcome to the Beer-Nosed Puffer's blog. This is indeed my first blog post EVER. Well, sort of. A few years back I had to post entries in a class blog once a week for a rhetoric class. However, they never amounted to much- mostly just funny news headlines. My hope for these blog posts is that they are a little more meaty that just alerting the world that "Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25"

Im starting a new chapter in my teaching endeavors this summer: middle schoolers! The Breakthrough Program has chosen me to teach science to a group of young geniuses from Saint Paul. Through this blog, you will be able to follow my trials and tribulations this summer and beyond. Ill write about the courses, the students and anything else that crosses my mind. Inevitably some cool science-in-the-news posts will pop up as well as other updates in my life, research and my never-ending quest for an iPhone.

So, I hope you all will enjoy my blogging. If you have any comments or wisdom to give me after reading posts, please comment- Ill take any and every piece of advice you can give a young educator. Happy reading!

***A note on the title. In our commencement ceremony the featured speaker Sean Carrol told a story in which we learned that the person who Indiana Jones is based off of started his career mopping floors a museum. Carrol concluded the speech by telling us all to "Grab Our Mops!" Our careers have to start somewhere. This is where mine begins.