soaking-it-in said: sometimes I’m unable to figure out why some of these ideas are crazy, and that makes me feel stupid—when I don’t see the problem with them…
This is a good point to bring up. For those of you who don’t teach science, it might not be obvious why some of our students’ very interesting and science-related ideas are crazy for STEM Fair projects. So here are my general criteria:
I do in fact spend several days going over all of this with my students, but, you know. Students.
This isn’t about trying to cast my students as stupid. They aren’t. They just aren’t used to having to develop an experiment that is actually worthwhile, and they’re generally not used to being pushed on things like precision and rigor. And in some cases they don’t have a lot of science content. The process of guiding them towards a feasible, interesting, testable question can be frustrating, so I like having a space to vent.
Plus they make me laugh.
I love creating assignments for AP Biology.
Much more than I love creating assignments for my “lower-level” classes.
I don’t necessarily like teaching AP better. It has its pluses and minuses. There are a lot of things I really love—the earnestness of the kids, for one—about my intro level freshmen that you just don’t get from a room full of upperclassmen.
But the assignment creation and the planning for AP is much more fun than it is even for my gifted level of biology.
I love the detail. The precision. I love that I don’t have to gloss over things or decide what to omit. It’s like biology unfiltered.
I’m just over here cheerfully nerding out about the details of calibrating molecular clocks.
And I’m remembering that one time a professor handed us all a giant packet of just DNA sequence and our homework assignment was to find and label all of the coding regions. It was difficult and a little tedious but I felt so empowered when I was finished, like I actually knew a thing about the universe.
I want to empower my students to feel like they know a thing about our universe.
(Maybe that’s my teaching philosophy.)
You’ll feel at home here before long, I promise. In the meantime, grade less, breathe more, and remember that you’re here because science is joyful.
I wasn’t excited last night.
I wasn’t excited this morning when I pulled myself out of bed at 5:35.
And I wasn’t excited when we got to school.
Around 7:15, when the halls filled with kids and my classroom was done, I went out to stand by my door and greet/direct students. I found myself grinning enthusiastically as kids swarmed by. A real, broad, instinctive smile, one that surprised me.
Turns out teaching really does make me happy. Genuinely happy, an involuntary happiness that blocks everything else. It’s such a high.
I’d forgotten, until I caught myself smiling fanatically in the halls.
Kids in desks in front of me.
I don’t feel as anxious as I usually do. The lack of anxiety is making me a little concerned—what have I forgotten? Am I going to get to work and realize I have nothing planned?!
I am planned for this week, in all of my classes, though I need to copy a couple of things during my planning tomorrow. I don’t need to do anything tomorrow morning except pick up papers from my mailbox—and I would have had that done late Friday if admin had been on top of things.
I have never felt this ready for Monday. It’s strange, not feeling frantic.
I don’t think I really want to get up at 5:30 and get back to working full time. But I am ready to finally face this particular school year and get underway.
It’s 3:30 on our first day back. No students, and I’ve been watching my colleagues slowly trickle home for the last half hour or so.
I’m in my empty room, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, fiddling with the projector and sort of talking to myself about my room set-up. It doesn’t honestly look like I’ve made any sort of progress with my room today, between the morning meeting and the afternoon meeting and prepping for a PD presentation, my classroom’s ended up on the bottom of the to-do list.
When a student wanders into my room I’m surprised, if polite, and very distracted by my pile of AV cords. “Excuse me,” she says timidly, “do you know where I can find Ms. F—-?” I interrupt her after she mispronounces the first syllable of my name.
"I’m in your second period AP Bio class," she says, introducing herself. I grin and shake her hand, aware that I don’t look particularly teacher-y.
She tells me that she’s heard it’s my first year with AP Bio, and that she has heard good things about my teaching from other students. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about my teaching this summer, but this one means the most, and it warms my heart.
"Is the class hard?" she asks. "I’m not worried about it being a lot fo work. But is it hard?"
I don’t subscribe to scaring students, but I don’t want to lie either. I use the words “experimental design,” “problem solving,” and “application.” She looks more and more apprehensive.
"Look, one of the things I believe about my teaching is that I will watch my students struggle, but I won’t let them drown. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, it’s going to be challenging. But we’ll get through it. I’m here to help."
The phone rings. My teaching is being interrupted with phone calls before the school year even begins. I thank my student for stopping by as I cross the room to the phone.
At the end of the day my AV cords are still in a pile. But I’m suddenly looking forward to meeting the rest of my kids.
So, here’s the thing: I have only one small-ish bulletin board in my classroom.
Last year, I turned the bulletin board into a “what you missed” board with folders to hold work for students who were absent. I liked that idea, but obviously I did not keep it up last year. I briefly thought about doing this “While You Were Absent” board again and ~resolving!~ to keep it up this year, but we all know how that stuff goes. It’s a good idea, but not for me.
So. What do I do with my bulletin board?
I’d like a word wall, but I teach three very different preps, and the single bulletin board is too small to hold three word walls.
Here are my preps:
AP Biology (11-12 grade)
9th grade gifted biology
9th grade inclusion intro to ecology
I’ve thought about doing a sort of general school info/ninth grade info board, but honestly I don’t know that I’d have enough stuff to put on it.
I’m open to any and all suggestions for a high school biology appropriate bulletin board…and go!
I have committed to my first quarter AP and GT labs, and submitted the appropriate order form paperwork for lab supplies.
I came in under $350, which I feel is not too bad for 13 total labs, 2 of which require fancy-ish AP Bio kits.
Goal for the rest of today: commit to all other AP Labs, and get order forms filled out for quarters 2-4.