Monday, December 15, 2014

Twelve Years in........What I have learnt as a science teacher?

1. Students care more about fairness than anything else. This seems to be a very strong human sentiment.

2. Make yourself approachable.

3. Kids don’t stay angry for a long time (unlike adults who can hold grudges for years).

4. Hands-on lab work is important for the learning experience in the sciences.

5. Don’t kill the fun of labs by burying the kids in one lab report after another.

6. Treat your students as human beings. Respect them and they will respect you.

7. Don’t underestimate the power of busy work but it should not be the mainstay of your teaching.

8. Nothing beats a strong explanation.

9. Keep learning as a teacher. Aim to know your subject matter inside out.

10. Encourage questioning but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer. Don’t BS the kids they are smarter than you think.

11. Set the standards from day one and don’t deviate from them.

12. Frequent mini quizzes ensure consistent learning. Kids may hate the idea initially but will grow to accept them as it ensures continuous learning and less cramming for larger unit tests.

13. Homework allocated must be useful. It has to reinforce the big ideas.

14. Make sure the kids know what the big ideas are. Don’t let them focus on the grains of sands while ignoring the dunes.

15. Movies shown in class must be relevant and if possible entertaining.

16. Use humour when teaching. It makes the kids relaxed and they learn better that way. I am the king of puns (not always good ones either).

17. Have a realistic marking scheme that rewards methodology and thinking even if the final answer is incorrect.

18. Remember that your kids are human beings. Each class is different. Every student is unique. You may be teaching the same course (or subject matter) but your presentation of the material should be adjusted accordingly.

19. Keep challenging yourself to be a better teacher. Never stagnate.

20. Present both sides of a controversial issue when fostering discussion.

21. Make sure that the students are aware of the practical applications of the theory that they are learning.

22. Encourage innovative answers that step outside the framework of the traditional solution.

23. Challenge your students to make connections between the content learnt in one discipline with that of another eg. electric fields in physics can explain ion balances in the human body or Newton’s laws are very useful in kinesiology.

24. Use technology in the classroom but don’t let the technology overwhelm the environment so that the human element is sacrificed.

25. Make sure that you deliver the material to the students in an organized manner. Ask yourself….What misconceptions need to be addressed at each stage of the learning?

26. Hand back tests and assignments as soon as possible. The Kids like that and it will pay dividends as the end.

27. Worksheets are not an outdated learning tool. If they are well crafted in a manner that shows a progression towards high orders of thinking the students will gain from them.

28. Use the internet for teaching resources but modify accordingly. Customize to maximize learning.

29. Don’t let the kids bully you for extra marks on a test. There are occasions where extra marks are warranted but this is not always the case. Be flexible but firm.

30. Student groups must be balanced. Rotate group spokespersons and make sure that the spokesperson keeps the group on track.

31. Listen to the ideas and advice of other teachers even if they are not that practical (you can modify based on your own experience if you see fit).

32. Field Trips should align with the curriculum and just like in-class movies must serve as a vehicle for learning.

33. Build up a vast library of testing resources so that you don’t fall into the trap of recycling tests.

34. Lab Reports must be neatly presented. Make sure the students are aware of the positive impression that neatness conveys.

35. Be creative in your projects. I have had the students build pinball machines, Rube Goldberg devices, toys, bridges, trebuchets/catapults, kaleidoscopes in the past. Other projects have included graphic novels, children stories (focusing on a scientific theme), in-class debates and factory visits. Science Fair projects have their place but need to be well monitored.

36. Encourage your stronger students to write the myriad of interschool competitions available. Kids thrive from the challenge and will surprise you.

37. When speaking to the class. Make the sessions as dynamic as possible, The Socratic two-way method of questioning is powerful but one has to make a conscious effort to allow more voices in the classroom are heard.

38. Offer extra help as often as possible.

39. Make sure that supply teachers have very clear instructions. When you are absent those classes should not transform into a ‘lost’ period.

40. Above all else…Enjoy your teaching. Kids pick up on that and it benefits both them and you.
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