September 2010

First Day of School… Am I ready for it?

First Day of School!

As the first day of school is fast approaching, I keep asking myself if I am ready for it. This term I will be teaching a Problem-Based Learning cohort of student-teachers (future elementary school teachers) as well as supervising student-teachers during their school practicum. My science methods course syllabus is ready and I have been reviewing the IRP (BC prescribed curriculum outcomes for K-7 science teaching) and thinking about the  in-class activities and experiments. However, the main concern is that I will have only 6 two-hour long meetings with my students over the entire term and lots and lots of things I would like to do. The “curriculum” is packed (overpacked…) and it is clear from the start that I will never be able to discuss with the student teachers everything they will need to know to teach science effectively to their future students. This realization forces me to articulate the MAJOR learning outcomes I would like my students to achieve as a result of attending 12 hours of my Science Methods course. This is a tough question, but I am sure it is the question every teacher who cares about his or her students is grappling with today. We have to much to teach yet we have too little time to do so.

My first focus is to shift from what I want to teach to what I want my students to learn. I also do not want to have too vague or too global of an outcome, such as “become a critical thinker” or “increase your appreciation of science” as it will be almost impossible for me to be able to measure at the end of my students have achieved it. To be honest, I think that becoming a critical thinker will take more than 12 hours of class time. For many of us, it takes a life time to get there… I am not confident I think critically all the time, even though I have more than enough degrees and certificates to prove that I am or at least I should have. Therefore I decided to list what I would like my students to achieve as a result of taking my methods course.

I would like my student-teachers to become:

a) More open to science and its role in our lives: by reading popular science books, visiting science museum and science events for the public, reading science-related newspaper articles, online science resources, listening to CBC radio, etc.

b) More confident in their ability to understand basic science concepts and the way scientists test their ideas and build new ones (scientific process), as well as being aware of how to use available resources to get help when they need it.

c) The teachers who are ready to take responsibility and initiative to take the time to figure things out and not to expect “scientists” to tell me how it all works. K-7 teachers should be able to apply basic science principles to their lives and share it with their students (think Global Warming, Energy consumption, etc.)

d) More curious about the world around them and more open to asking “obvious” questions and trying to find answer to them. Obvious questions are often the hardest ones to find the answers to…

e) Unsatisfied with “hands-on” science activities that replace science with “doing without thinking” for the sake of doing. Do not just do stuff,  keep asking the SO WHAT? WHY? HOW? WHAT IF? questions…

f) Ready to acknowledge that they do not understand something and realize that we will be learning all our lives and this is what we would like our students to do as well.

g) Teachers who believe that each and every one of the students in our classes can be successful and it is the role of a Teacher to  support their students’ success. My dream is to educate teachers who can see beyond where the student is now and being able to see where the student can be. This is the toughest of them all, but it is something that will make a real difference in our students’ lives.


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