Back to the Future
Feels like we were just here… doesn’t it? What happened to that endless summer? It was supposed to last forever young just like Michael J. Fox. We just packed up for the year, and now the usual back-to-school panic attacks are setting in. You know, those annually recurring nightmares where the kids are literally climbing up the walls right when your principal walks in to observe you. Oh, and by the way, you forgot your pants. While you may feel like this is the umpteenth time you’ve been here reliving a real-life Ground Hog’s Day minus Bill Murray, you’ve done this before and you can do it confidently and successfully again! Think positive. Or at least 1980’s Delorian.
Energy = Managing * Classroom^2
This is a different type of energy equation. The kind tied to your capacity to effect change. There are those lofty dreams from the previous year though, right? The extra trainings that you went to or extra reading that you did in anticipation of this year being better. And it will be. But first, you have to get through the annual “big crunch” of time where you have to accomplish the impossible by squeezing in everything there is to do just at the start of school. This is all of course followed by the “big bang”, which is the rapid expansion of the school year at a mindboggling pace until you’re up and running. It all makes me think of a Green Day song entitled “Wake Me Up When September Ends”.
Okay, so by this point you are hanging on by a thread. I get it. Time to catch your breath. Remember that long list of things you were going to start this year and do differently. The one that no single human being could ever actually implement. Well, it’s time to prioritize. You need to narrow down your list to what’s doable and what’s possible. Give yourself permission not to have everything perfect before day one: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you build it they will come, but they will, in fact, come regardless. They always do. So be selective. What will make the biggest difference for your students this year? Is it that perfect border you saw at the teacher store with the nifty bulletin board? Or maybe it’s time to let the kids create what goes on your walls so that you can put a little extra time into your standards. Speaking of which, did you know there are some other standards out there besides the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? In fact, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are going live or have already gone live in a state near you.
The Science of Time
Funny thing, time. It’s the one thing that once you’ve lost it… it can never be found again. It’s gone for good. All the more reason to make the most of the time you have with your students. Speaking of which, becoming proficient at any skill or standard requires practice which requires time. The more time you dedicate to something this year the better your students will get. You can only work so much smarter (not harder) before you’ve exhausted all of your options and yourself. And, by the way, reading about science is not science. Your students need to experience hands-on applications of the scientific standards and they need dedicated time to do this. So make this one of your top ten goals this year. I realize that the NGSS may not be number one and that’s fine, but the plain and simple scientific truth regarding student learning is that they need consistent, daily practice averaging at roughly 20 minutes to really grow in their scientific understanding of the world around them.
But I am Not the Perfect Science Teacher
So what. No one is because science is far too broad a topic for even the most dedicated secondary science teacher to focus on and master everything there is to know (think physics, chemistry, biology, etc.). Can you ask a question? Then you can be scientist! Quintessential science that is devoid of distractions is all about asking questions about the natural world and then exploring for answers. Scientists call them natural phenomena. If you don’t teach science as a subject, then please help your fellow teachers out by integrating where you can. Trust me, the science teachers are trying to integrate the CCSS whether they like it or not. Plus, you can then be a trendy “STEM” teacher, or, better yet, just a teacher who creates authentic learning opportunities for his or her students.
Speaking Theoretically, or at Least Relatively Relativity
As for you generalists, you’re not off the hook. Most of you are at the elementary level, and we (myself included) are responsible for providing a responsible elementary science education. The NGSS are the best way to do this. The only way to get decent at teaching science is to jump in and just start. The only way to get good is time spent practicing. That’s straight-forward pedagogy. Plain and simple, proven science of learning. Time. It’s what you have to intentionally plan for, set aside, and spend on regular instruction in order to prepare scientifically literate citizens for the 21st century. You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure that one out.
So Now is the Time to Make Time for Science: D = R * T
The Distance that your students cover in science is directly related to the rate at which you teach them times the amount of time spent learning. Simple as the equation we all learned in basic algebra. At this point, either you’re with me or you’ve moved on but I’ve included some links to help people get started. So, if you didn’t teach science last year then pledge to teach a lesson, if you taught one then teach two, if you taught a unit then start working your way up to a full year’s curriculum, and if you taught a full year’s curriculum then also try integrating across other subjects… you’re young scientifically literate citizens will thank you as will society because the last thing we want to do is move backwards towards the future.
Some Helpful Back-to-School Science Links
Highly Recommend Science Post by Hallie Mills: http://corelaboratewa.org/making-connections-in-science/
My post on the NGSS According to Science Cat: http://corelaboratewa.org/the-three-dimensions-of-the-ngss-according-to-science-cat/
Science Buddies Website: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/
Science Friday: http://www.sciencefriday.com/
Steve Spangler’s Website: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/
Kirk Robbins Blog Site: https://teachscience4all.wordpress.com/
Insightful NGSS post by Tom Hathorn: http://corelaboratewa.org/building-an-investigation-ngss-style/