MAT Blog

K-12 science teachers are resourceful, by design.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 26, 2012 10:41:00 AM

Marygrove MAT says K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful.One of the biggest take-aways from our Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) webinar The New Science Teacher” on June 14 was for teachers to be organized and skilled at classroom management. But one of the shrewdest lessons that kept coming through rather steadily was that K-12 science teachers need to be resourceful—and oh-so-clever about getting what they need, when they need it. 

“Nobody is going to tell you that teaching science really is rocket science, basically,” muses Dr. Charles Pearson, Coordinator of the MAT Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program. Teaching the subject of science is complex and challenging. Half the battle is won by taking it upon yourself to get what you need to teach effectively, so that your students will get what they need to learn. Be assertive!

When his urban middle school classroom had no sink for necessary lab work, Dr. Pearson details how he made one out of a couple of five-gallon restaurant buckets that smelled like pickles! It got the job done. One bucket was for waste, and one was for clean water supply. He appointed student helpers to empty and fill the buckets in the custodial closet, and they were no worse for the lack of plumbing.

For low budget ways to complement a lesson, enlist the help of family and friends who are in the know about a related science field to help in the classroom, write a letter to the class, or record a video like this one on acid rain from the UK. The video is low budget, but its educational value is off the charts.

It’s these kinds of things that really separate the newbies from the pros!

If you are doing an earth science unit and there’s no budget for soils and rocks, head to the nearest parking lot. Don’t be shy—just grab what you need. Lumber yards and landscaping supply outlets may give teachers a price break, or even offer free materials, if you ask nicely!

Don’t forget that many expensive chemicals can be purchased as their household equivalents at a fraction of the cost at the drug store. Magnesium sulfate? Try Epsom salts. Oxalic acid? Use a non-chlorine bleach cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend.

Another resourceful science teacher, Haley E. Hart, from Southeastern High School in Detroit, recommends that teachers with limited budgets look into Donors Choose- an online philanthropic website where public school teachers submit proposals for things they need, and donors choose to fund them. For example, a third grade teacher from Toledo, OH is requesting three millipedes for students to learn about decomposition, and the life cycle. Three authentic millipedes for about 20 bucks can make all the difference in the world to her project, and to her students. It’s worth doing.

One last tip that really will separate you from the rest is how you handle guest teachers or substitutes. Subs are naturally hesitant to take on a big, messy lab experiment, and are ill-prepared to step in on an ongoing science project. Take the initiative (and the time) to leave explicit instructions for your guests. It helps if you have a bullet-proof procedure in place that all students are aware of when you are absent, so that they can continue to work seamlessly while you’re away. Even the youngest students can be prepared to help a substitute teacher with procedures and tasks. Students will enjoy the independence as you groom them to take ownership of their classroom and their work.

If you missed these helpful tips, download our webinar, The New Science Teacher here. Stay tuned for more information on our Cutting Edge Science webinar on July 18 that prepares teachers for the Next Generation Science Standards—there’s limited seating—hurry and reserve yours!

Tags: science teachers, new science teachers, science standards, on demand webinar

The best way to help K-12 students in science is to help science teachers!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 12, 2012 10:06:00 AM

Webinar for Science TeachersWe are all too familiar with the challenges of science teachers in primary and secondary education: Changing science standards on a national level, heavier emphasis on science curriculum from state and district levels, lack of proper materials, and inadequate or non-existent laboratory space.  For more than a decade, these issues have been well-known, and well-documented. (Ingersoll, 2000) But for new science teachers who have quit their jobs, the echo in the dark seems to point—again and again— to leadership. But who’s listening?

“For new science teachers, it’s getting tougher to hang on,” says Charles Pearson, Retired Principal, and Coordinator of the Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment program. “As the rigors of science instruction become greater, it places greater pressure on science teachers who typically need far more planning and prep time than other teachers to provide effective instruction.” 

Dr. Pearson says there are things principals can and should do to help support The New Science Teacher. He directs colleagues to the New Science Teacher Academy for best practice in the field. Good science teachers are incredibly organized professionals, who must be creative and resourceful to get the job done. However, administrative leaders must allow them the time to get oriented to the subject matter. Protocols specific to science teaching should be in place before The New Science Teacher is hired. 

What’s more, the research conducted in Supporting New Science Teachers: What School Leaders Can Do by Donna Sterling and Wendy Frazier from George Mason University outlines in detail what school leaders can do to offset a growing shortage of science teachers. Their recommendations are admittedly several years old, but bear repeating:

  • Pay attention to working conditions. Hiring and assigning classes early helps teachers prepare before the start of school. Don’t wait until August, if you can help it. Give science teachers their own classroom; do not have them float between classrooms with a cart.
  • Provide a supportive culture. Identify a person or team to provide new teachers with an orientation to the school, policies and procedures. Demonstrate the proper use and maintenance of science materials.
  • Give in-class support. Designate a coach/mentor who also teaches/has taught science to be present in and out of the classroom. Perform experiments with new science teachers prior to use with students.
  • Ensure quality training.  Make sure you train the coaches and mentors as well as the teachers, for consistency. Partner with a local college or university that has course offerings to help new science teachers.

There are more and more indicators that teacher support is incredibly important. National education philanthropist The Wallace Foundation put out a lengthy report last year on effective principal leadership. Its findings point to supporting teachers well and “cultivating leadership in others” as central to being a great leader.  The more support we give to our teachers, the better prepared our students will become.

So, principals, colleagues: keep doing what you can to encourage those brave new science teachers to hang in there. We’ll do what we can, too. Let us know what you think.

New to science teaching or teaching in general?  Don’t miss our webinar The New Science Teacher: Tips and Tricks and Tips to Thrive in the Classroom. Register now, and be on top of your game for fall!

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Tags: webinar, new science teachers, science standards, science teacher retention

The New Science Teacher: How to Survive and Thrive!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jun 9, 2012 5:36:00 AM

The New Science Teacher webinar airs Thursday, June 14!Join us on Thursday, June 14 at 4 p.m. as we prepare you for the trenches in K-8 Science with Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching’s Charles Pearson, Ph.D.

If your new assignment for fall happens to be in science or you’re finding yourself lost in the ever-changing science education standards, this webinar is for you. We’ll give you some practical advice that can help you take a deep breath and dive into an area that is truly fascinating—and fun to teach. All it takes is a little organization and creativity.

It has been a known fact for quite some time that science teachers experience greater job dissatisfaction and are more likely to leave the teaching field compared to other subject area teachers. (Ingersoll, 2000) The reasons are also well known, but there has not been much change for the better in the last decade. New science teachers are still over-taxed and under-supported.  Studies show that when experienced or even retired teachers can mentor and guide new teachers, the results are positive.  

Dr. Charles (Chuck) Pearson is no stranger to the classroom. His 30-plus years in education include a nine-year stint as a principal, and almost two decades in the K-8 classroom. As a former middle school science teacher, Dr. Pearson knows all the angles to get students energized and interested in science studies.

He is joined by colleague Haley Hart, a second-year science teacher who established a successful extracurricular science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) club for students at Southeastern High School in Detroit.

Do you have the skill set to be an effective science teacher? Dr. Pearson says every teacher does, it’s just a matter of capitalizing on your strengths. He’ll walk you through some fundamental ways to ensure that you’re giving all you can to your students, and getting the support you need to deliver confident, competent science instruction.

We'll show you how:

  • Networking with colleagues is critical to your success
  • Setting up a management system for materials is imperative for organization and safety
  • Preparing a file for substitute teachers is important to keep quality science instruction in play

You'll learn how to be effective with the most limited resources:

  • Make your own "sink" if your classroom doesn't have one
  • Bring in authentic materials from your yard if budgets are tight

Register for our 30-minute Marygrove MAT webinar The New Science Teacher: Tips and Tricks to Thrive in the Classroom now! Seating is limited, so don’t miss out!

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Dr. Charles (Chuck) Pearson is the Coordinator for the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Program. Retired from K-12 in 2011, Dr. Pearson earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Cognate in K-12 Superintendency from Western Michigan University. He has several publications in K-12 science to his credit, including multiple presentations for the National Science Teachers Association Annual Conferences around the country. He is a Field Mentor to eight school leadership teams in urban K-12 schools in Michigan. 

Haley E. Hart is a second year chemistry teacher at Detroit Public Schools Southeastern High School.  She is a member of the teaching corps of Teach For America and is pursuing her State of Michigan Teacher Certification from the University of Michigan. She earned her B.A. in biology from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.



Tags: webinar, science teachers, new science teachers, science standards

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