Lesson 1: It Starts with the Standards Silly
In politics, it’s the economy; in education, it’s the standards. Standards-based education is the brave new world of teachers. That’s a good thing. Mostly. Except when it’s not. But that’s a topic for a different blog post.
Teaching in the modern era means starting with grade-level standards because those are the content. The curriculum is just the vehicle for transporting students to that magical world called understanding. Some might even stay a little longer on the learning bus and reach mastery.
As I’ve worked over the last year to become a better science teacher, I’ve found time and again that I have to go back to the standards first and start there. For most, that means the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). So what other lessons have I learned? Well, for now, just like most rap songs are all about the Benjamins, this blog post is all about the standards.
Lesson 2: Even the Experts Don’t Really Know
Okay, this was probably my weirdest NGSS experience, but in a recent twitter chat I got in an argument with one of the NGSS authors. I didn’t know it at the time or I would have backed down, but unwittingly I pressed on, made my case, and got pummeled. Then something weird happened. Another twitter user eloquently came to my defense. And a third got involved.
The gears begin to turn slowly as I read one articulate, precise, and poignant point after another. My eyes drifted down to the table where I had laid out my NGSS reference books for the chat… my eyes fell upon the names of the authors. I had unwittingly started an argument among three NGSS authors. Oops.
Goes to show that even the experts are still processing, learning, and deciphering the new standards. Okay (I thought), I don’t feel so bad that I haven’t mastered them yet.
Lesson 3: You Said How Much Training?
The question regarding the amount of training needed is rhetorical. There is so much depth to the NGSS that a science teacher could pursue a doctorate on the topic. You almost need one to say you’re truly an expert.
So now that I’ve possibly frustrated (or worse overwhelmed) any elementary teachers reading this, just let me say that there are still ways to start small and make progress. Most people, hopefully, understand that teaching every subject means you are a jack of all trades and master of none. That’s what is so amazing about elementary educators in my opinion.
The point is that there’s no set amount to mastery. Learning the NGSS is an on-going process that’s never done. It’s not a box that you check and move on. These standards are here to stay, they go deep, and the teacher as chief learner model will serve us all well in approaching them.
Lesson 3 ½: Training Can Take Many Forms
Traditional classes are what we traditionally think of when it comes to training, and when it comes to NGSS classes I’ve easily had 100+ hours. Yet, I’m still at the more-I-learn-the-more-I-realize-I-have-to-learn stage. Also, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from video, books, blogs, twitter chats, impromptu conversations, book studies, websites, apps, teaching, co-teaching, and observing that I didn’t necessarily learn in classes or at least pick up the first time around. The convergence of new technology and new standards has made this especially true so you don’t have to wait for a “traditional class” to get started, i.e. there’s no one best place to start which means there’s also no need to wait. There are so many places to jump in and start learning that there’s really no time like the present!
I’ll have more suggestions in the second installment of this blog post, but, until then, in the interest of accessibility and brevity here are 3 ½ resources to get you started:
Resource 1: #NGSSchat Twitter Chat: Every other Thursday at 9 PM Eastern (6 PM Pacific) on Twitter.
Resource 2: NGSS Blogging Project: http://www.ngssblogs.com
Resource 3: NGSS Section of the NSTA Website: http://ngss.nsta.org
Resource 3 ½: One of My Earlier NGSS Blog Posts: http://corelaboratewa.org/the-three-dimensions-of-the-ngss-according-to-science-cat/
Lessons 4 – 7 ½
The rest is coming soon, but in the meantime what are some recent lessons that you’ve learned about implementing Next Gen Science?