I’m a first-year middle school life science teacher. After a few weeks, I am really stressed with all of the planning and paperwork. Any resources or words of encouragement? —L., New York
Welcome to science teaching! Every teacher has gone through what you’re experiencing, even if they had a great student teaching experience. Fortunately, there are resources to help.
NSTA’s email lists have timely advice on specific questions concerning content, the Next Generation Science Standards, safety, classroom management, assessments, and more. NSTA journals have lessons that you can adapt. Other NSTA publications, such as those mentioned in Tips for the First Day of School, also address your concerns.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the time-consuming details of lesson planning and evaluating student work, but remember to look occasionally at the big picture. A recent higher education blog post described What Every Incoming Science Student Should Know. The author’s suggestions can be modified for what incoming science teachers should know:
- Decide what you want your students to gain from your class. They may forget the bulletin boards or elaborate presentations, but they’ll remember if you fostered a love of learning and an appreciation for science and if you respected them and gave them choices.
- Help students become independent learners. Teach notetaking skills rather than preparing lots of handouts. Encourage students to ask (and answer) their own questions. Recognize your students’ creativity and curiosity.
- Whenever possible, help students make the connections among science, the “real world,” and their own interests.
- Take time for yourself and don’t neglect your health. Have a support group of mentors and other first-year teachers to relax with and share adventures.
- Understand that real teaching is hard. Allow yourself to make mistakes (but not when it comes to student safety!). Reflect on, learn from, and then let go of the mistakes.
Think about your successes every day— there will be many! Good luck!