Vernier Science Education - June  2024


Forums / Professional Learning / Professional Development

Professional Learning

Professional Development

Author Post
Ashley Claure Ashley Claure 355 Points

I have roughly a year and a half left until I have my teaching degree. I understand how important it is for me to be a competent science teacher, but the amount of information and knowledge I have to acquire is overwhelming! Did any of you teachers feel this way when you were in my position? How can I prepare myself to be a knowledgeable science teacher? It is difficult for me to read a book or an article and feel I have truly learned something. My learning style is very much hands-on, experience oriented. What activities, groups, workshops, etc. should I seek out?

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Ashley,
How exciting that you are just a little over a year away from your goal of becoming a science teacher! Are you planning to teach young children, older elementary or middle school students? Your anxiety over wondering if you will ever be fully prepared is shared by most preservice teachers. You are right! The amount of content, the number of concepts, the pedagogical aspects, etc., can be very overwhelming. I think the NSTA Learning Center resources can really help! The Sci Packs are a great beginning. Just choose one containing content that you feel fairly confident about to start. Go through it, take the assessment, and see if it doesn't 'sharpen' your brain and increase your knowledge for that particular science area. Then go to another Sci Pack.
Another suggestion is to create a professional development portfolio for yourself. The Online Advisors, when they are on Live Support Online, are just waiting for you (or anyone) to click on the Live Support Icon and seek their help in setting up personal professional development plans using the Learning Center resources. Some states include the NSTA PD portfolios and many of the PD activities as legitimate ways to gain state PD credits.
Nobody can be expected to know all there is to know about science and how to teach it. I don't, and I have taught for over 30 years. Knowing where you can seek advice, help, ideas, and support is required, though. Otherwise, you may always feel overwhelmed. That place is HERE - I don't know what I would do if I didn't have NSTA resources at my fingertips. Please DO try out a Sci Pack and click on the Live Support Icon to chat with the online advisors as often as you would like!
Welcome to a great profession filled with caring, competent, confident NSTA members ready and willing to share with you!

Sarah Galland Sarah Galland 1130 Points

I am for the most part in your same position. I have a little over a semester left before I am done with the education program and can have my own classroom. I have found it helpful to log on to some interactive learning sites such as brainpop and brainpopjr. Some of these sites require you to have a membership, but others are free. You may also want to google interactive science learning websites. I am more of a hands-on learner also, but have learned a great deal from these interactive activities and simulations.

Penny Ghinaudo Penny Ghinaudo 3710 Points

It is interesting to read your post. I have been teaching for over 25 years and we did not get to learn that way. It was mostly "sit and get" back then. Staff development is still pretty much that way in may districts. On the school level, you may be lucky to have some days when you have presentations that have direct correlation to science. As far as the rest, you should use NSTA or regional service centers to get as many hands on related development workshops as you can. Summer is a wonderful time to do the same. There are acadamies, conferences, fellowships, paid trainings, and many other things that you can attend in which you learn, participate, network, and get to have lots of fun. I must admit I am still as much a student as a teacher in that I have that lifelong love of learning. Don't ever lose that and you will always find new things to do. Just start looking early for summer activities and you will be great.

Ashley Stark Ashley Stark 3235 Points

I was in your position 2 years ago. I learned way more about how to be a teacher by teaching than anything I learned in the teacher prep program. Now, you have so much to worry about with requirements to recieve your credential, I think it would be wise to focus on that and just know that experience is the best teacher. However, if I could have gained insight before stepping into my own classroom I would have enrolled in an "engaging students" seminar. Also, schools want students who score well on standardized testing so I would definitely think about how to teach content vocabulary and reading in ways that make the students do the learning.

Tammi Kreckel Tammi Kreckel 4150 Points

Ashley, Hi. Yes. I did have the same feelings as I graduated, and during my first year of teaching. I wish I had asked your question last year. I agree with the other posts, that the NSTA is the best resource. Another good resource is your state standards. Review these and start gathering activities and labs. It will save you time if you have a good library of organized anticipatory sets to capture attention. Flinn scientific has some free lab ideas that are inexpensive demonstrations and lab exercises. Whenever possible try the activities in advance taking notes on how long it took, and any improvements or modifications you could make for different student needs. I also browse old bookstores for inexpensive old lab books. Maybe some one can suggest a good way to organize these materials, because I haven't found an effective method yet.

Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

This really is a daunting question. I had no idea that all of these resources were here, if it had not been for my professor who asked us to get a membership as part of our course. I've been a part of other professional organizations, but none as helpful as this one has been. I have one year until my certification program ends, and I couldn't be more grateful for these resources!

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Congratulations Ashley, teaching is the most rewarding profession you could ever ask for. To answer your question, I think we all go through the initial feeling of being overwhelmed in the beginning. Carolyn offered great advice on increasing your base of knowledge. When you first begin teaching, you realize how much you don’t know and that can be very discouraging. Focus instead of all of the opportunities you will have to learn right alongside your students. There is no shame in saying, “I don’t know, but we can find out together.” That is the sign of a lifelong learner. Like Penny, I have been teaching a long time. Initially I began my career in a small town where there were no universities and the only way to get any professional development was to travel 2 hours in each direction or wait until summer when I could go home and take classes at the university there. Now, there are so many wonderful opportunities – conferences, seminars, both in person and online, online courses, fellowships … you name it, it’s there. I agree with Ashley in the respect the best way to learn is to do. The NSTA learning center is an incredible resource. I wish it had been around when I first began my teaching. At least then I would have had someone I could turn to to ask questions and brainstorm with. I am always in awe when I do a search for a topic and am rewarded with so many rich and engaging articles. So many ideas, so little time. The one thing I have never been sorry for, was creating my own library of NSTA books. There are several I would not even consider being without. Page Keeley’s “Uncovering …” books have wonderful prompts that allow me to see my students’ thinking quickly. Within each book there is not only the prompt and the answers, but also the misconceptions students hold as well as the Science behind the concepts. These are identified by grade bands, helping me understand what students should know by which grade band. Dr. William Robertson’s, “Stop Faking It …” series provides excellent background knowledge on the concept. The humor found within the chapters, as well as the activities are priceless. I have used these with my middle school students, and they easily could have replaced the entire curriculum.

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Not to tailgate on Sandy's comments too much, but I couldn't agree more with everything she said. When I first started teaching I was completely overwhelmed but I quickly learned to lean on NSTA. I've looked at the other content-based organizations out there (since I'm certified in multiple subjects) and none of them even come close to offering teachers what NSTA does. I sincerely wish these other organizations would follow NSTA's lead on the types of resources they offer teachers. I simply don't know what I would have done without NSTA's materials in those first few years and I think every teacher, regardless of what subject they teach, needs an organization like NSTA. With that said, be open to trying new things. Know upfront that half of them will work and half of them you will never try again (and you might even question your own sanity for attempting some of them in the first place). Never let that deter you. You learn something new each and every time. Never be afraid to say you don't know something. Not only does that show you're a lifelong learner, but it's also empowers students as well. It shows them it's okay if they don't know something too. And enjoy the journey. We have the coolest job on the planet - I don't care what the news and reports say. We get to make a real difference and there is something magical in that. When you feel like banging your head against the wall (and trust us, you will) know that there's a reason for the things you do and that there's a place you can turn for help, encouragement, and direction. Kendra

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Ashley, The most important thing is to know that you will never know everything, and everything changes. When I started college, the first calculators were hitting college campuses. Things have changed a little. I had a typewriter, and we learned using library books. Imagine that! Frankly, I can't imagine going back to that point again. It took a lot of effort, but I have managed several career shifts, with major relearning and retooling. This has become the norm for most professions, including teaching. Be willing to re-create yourself periodically. Continue to learn not only new content, but about new approaches to teaching. Read and take advantage of every opportunity you can get your hands on! Learn from colleagues, your students, your observations, coursework - keep an open mind. Find a mentor to help you through the challenges of the first few years. Our charge is to teach our students to become life-long learners, and to adapt to changes as they occur. We need to do the same.

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