Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why I Started

Some of you know how this year has been a struggle for me. Just getting through all the new red tape this year is enough to crush anyone's spirit. Couple that with some health issues and I have been about as unmotivated as I can get.

A while back I got an email inviting me to apply for a research opportunity at Kansas University. Part of the application required me to write out my teaching philosophy in less than 250 words. Um, okay. To be honest, I haven't really thought much about my philosophy in recent years. It just seemed like something that was always kind of there at the periphery, but nothing really concrete.

So when I sat down to write this, I really wondered if my overall philosophy had changed much since I began. I can remember being incredibly naive and optimistic about what it took to inspire kids. Then, of course, reality set in and I began to really lose sight of why I was here. Mostly, I alternate between feeling like the greatest teacher ever to worrying that I am doing it all wrong.

But then again, the kids I have now are not the same kids I had a decade ago. Teaching is not the same. Society has changed. Education in general is not the same. So it stands to reason that I am not the same teacher.

Strangely enough, my philosophy hasn't shifted much from its original ideals. I still believe science is the greatest subject out there. I still believe that what I am doing is important. And I still believe in every kid. So here it is, my new and improved (and just under the 250 word limit) teaching philosophy.

I believe a good number of my students are inherently interested in science. Let’s face it, science is cool. On any given day I have at least one reference to the Discovery channel or some really cool item that was heard on the news. The trick is to get them to really look beyond the big picture and see the details; get them to see the how and the why and the what if that comes with true understanding.

I believe I have the power to either nurture or crush a child. I can take their interest and feed it or bore them to death with the mind-numbing details that I used to think were important. 
I believe in challenging my kids. My classroom has shifted over the years. I can now honestly say that my students are active learners. We do labs and the data matters. We draw conclusions and present them to our peers. We have to explain ideas in ways so others can understand them. This sounds so easy on paper, but in reality, this is way out of the comfort zone of so many of my students.

I believe in my kids as students, people and scientists. There is something that makes every student tick. If you can find that and tie into that passion, you've got them. I realize how jaded a teacher can become, so after 16 years teaching, I am glad I still hold on to that belief.

Happy New Year, everyone, I truly hope it is the best yet.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stop the Insanity...

Today I gave my chemistry class a fun page. There is an old Christmas story written by Bob Jacobs that has the names of elements scattered throughout. Some are obvious, some are not so obvious. The idea is to identify as many element names as you can. My kids jumped in and were having a great time highlighting and laughing about the play on words. Then it got hard. Someone found sixty three names and I told them that I know there are over one hundred and to keep looking. And the Googling began. Seriously? This is not for a grade, not for extra credit. This is simply meant to be a fun activity and a break from what we were doing.

NOTE: Because of the high demand for this particular activity, I am posting it here. The only thing I have changed is the name of the Ebneezers at the beginning. Have fun!

Christmas Story

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