Student teaching frustration

11093465225_95df3e80fa_mTeaching is my second career. I used to work for an environmental agency, but I’m having second thoughts about this switch. I took over for my cooperating teacher at the beginning of this marking period. I have a very diverse group of kids. Some are willing to cooperate, others very willing to test or disrespect me. I do not have a strong personality like my male co-op has. I’ve come to dread getting up and going into school. Is this typical during student teaching? I could use any input or advice you may have. –R. from California

Dealing with challenging students is not the exclusive domain of student teachers! Even after more than 25 years, I had students who were cooperative and those who “tested” me. My biggest aha as a beginning teacher came when I realized not to take it personally when students acted out or were disrespectful. It was eye-opening when I saw them try the same behaviors with experienced teachers. 

Without knowing your co-op and the students, it’s hard to say if they’re responding to you differently because of your gender. When you say you don’t have a strong personality, I suspect you mean that you’re not as loud or as physically imposing as your cooperating teacher. I’m female, short, and soft-spoken. At first, I had some students who only responded when I went on a wild-woman rampage (I think they found it very entertaining). So I had a talk with them about how I was taught to be polite to everyone and that was how I expected them to treat me and each other. It took a while for some students to adapt to that expectation. (At least you have the advantage of life experiences–I was 21 when I was student teaching and not much older than the students!)

You’re also the new kid on the block, and some students will want to find out which buttons to push. In my first year, I really struggled with one class in particular. I dreaded that class and was ready to quit in October! But my principal worked with me to develop some classroom management routines and procedures that set up expectations for student behavior and success. 

The cardinal rule in classroom management is “the best defense is a good offense.”

Continue reading …

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Supporting children’s interests

Children stand at the edge of a small pond, observing the water flow.As we take a nature walk on the paths through a large garden area tended by church members, the children always want to “go to the pond.” This body of water is an 8’ by 10’ pool with pump-circulated water flowing from a raised area. We watch the flow, bubbles and talk about the fine netting covering the entire water surface. I remind the children frequently to keep their feet on the grass as they creep closer to the rocks bordering the water. I’m sure they would wade in if it were their pond. I hope all of them get to wade in some body of flowing water with close adult supervision. I share their interest—in my childhood I had free access to “the creek” at the border of our property next to the airport. We waded, built dams with loose rocks and slid down the larger algae-covered rocks.

The children speculate on the reasons for the netting over the water, describe it as looking like spider webs, talk about the leaves that have fallen onto the net, and reach towards it as they talk. On a day when we didn’t go outside I decided to follow up on this strong interest in the water and net, guided by the emphasis of emergent curriculum* on focusing on the diverse strengths of children, and building on their strengths and interests. I provided two small tubs of water, netting from bags of oranges and tree leaves from the garden. I was sure the children would be engaged with these materials for a long time, and was concerned that two tubs would not be enough.

Child splashes in water with netting and leaves.As a small group of children entered the room, I told them about the water and a painting exploration, also set up. They did go immediately to the water, and bunched up the nets, added leaves and swished their hands joyfully in the water. Over two days, there were 6 small groups—two each of 2’s, 3’s and 4’s—and each group of children repeated these actions. I asked the children if the set-up reminded them of the pond, wondering if they would begin to use the net as a leaf-catcher, and with another group I initiated a game of pretending to be a tree and dropping leaves on the net covering the water. A few children played for a few minutes but this model of the pond was obviously not engaging. And I was so proud of myself for following up on something that was so meaningful to the children! I was sure they would be interested in exploring ways to use the netting as a tool. Why do you think this small scale pond with netting did not engage them?

Many more children were interested in the painting exploration where they could paint on different surfaces—wax paper, felt, aluminum foil and pumpkins. I’ll follow up on this interest by providing larger pieces of the materials and setting out two kinds of paint, liquid watercolors and the thicker tempera paint. 


*The goal of emergent curriculum is to respond to every child’s interests. Its practice is open-ended and self-directed. It depends on teacher initiative and intrinsic motivation, and it lends itself to a play-based environment. Emergent curriculum emerges from the children, but not only from the children. Curriculum emerges from the play of children and the play of teachers. It is coconstructed by the children and the adults and the environment itself. To develop curriculum in depth, adults must notice children’s questions and invent ways to extend them, document what happens, and invent more questions. The process is naturally individualized.   

Elizabeth Jones. 2012. Our Proud Heritage: The Emergence of Emergent Curriculum. Young Children. 67(2): 66-68


Some additional resources for learning about emergent curriculum:

Jones, Elizabeth, & J. Nimmo. 1994. Emergent CurriculumWashington, DC: NAEYC.

Stacey, S. 2009. Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings: From Theory to Practice. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf.

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Queensland kindergarten learning guideline: Understanding emergent curriculum in practice. July 2014. 

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NSTA Has Made 25 Members Very Happy (and We Have Even More in Store)

A big shout out and congratulations to 25 NSTA members who recently renewed their membership for two years and won FREE registration to the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Chicago, March 12-15, 2015. The winners will also receive a $100 voucher for travel to the conference compliments of Southwest Airlines.

Over 280 NSTA members took advantage of the membership campaign, held earlier this month, and all were entered into a drawing for the free Chicago registration/travel voucher combination package. The winners were randomly selected and will be traveling to the Windy City next March for the largest conference ever of professionals dedicated to science teaching and learning.

Congratulations to:

James Bader – Lakewood, OH
Carol Baker – Oak Lawn, IL
Lisa Balazs – Hoover, AL
Teresa Bixby – Romeoville, IL
Susan Boxler – Oskaloosa, IA
Ernest DiMicco – Coventry, RI
Mary Fields – Coos Bay, OR
Scott Grumelot – Fayetteville, NC
Holly Heiple – Cleveland Heights, OH
Cynthia Holcomb – Cedar Park, TX
Karen Howell – Easton, CT
Sheryl Johnson – Oklahoma City, OK
Ute Kaden – Fairbanks, AK
Samantha Levine – Blauvelt, NY
Helen Patten – Sonoma, CA
Randi Peskin – Parkland, FL
Annie Prud’homme-Genereux – Squamish, BC
Christine Purkiss - San Angelo, TX
M. Quinones – Loveland, OH
Diane Simmons – Littleton, CO
Benjamin Spicer – Sewickley, PA
David Thomas – Ardmore, PA
Warren Wessel – Regina, SK
Lisa Woodruff – Hampton Falls, NH
Wynne Youngblood – Salisbury, NC

These members will continue to take advantage of outstanding NSTA member benefits – including an NSTA journal of choice, access to our listservs and substantial discounts to NSTA products and services – for two more years. For more information about NSTA’s member benefits, visit the NSTA Membership webpage.

Watch for more opportunities over the coming weeks and months to save money on NSTA membership and learn how membership can enhance your professional development. (And we can give you a hint about our next campaign which begins pretty soon – it’s after Black Friday, but before Giving Tuesday, when online shopping rules the day!)

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NSTA journals: A goldmine for teachers

One of the perks of being an NSTA member is having access to all of the journals online. Regardless of the grade level you teach, the journals have ideas for authentic activities and investigations that can be used, adapted, or extended for different levels of student interest and experience. The articles in NSTA’s November K-12 journals focus on the crosscutting concept of Cause and Effect, Engineering Projects, and the practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data.

Science & Children: Cause and Effect

This issue continues a series that addresses each of the crosscutting concepts with “snapshots” of activities that include the concepts. Here are some SciLinks that provide additional content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s articles:

Note: Last month’s Science Scope also addressed Cause and Effect!

Science Scope: Engineering Solutions

This issue describes a number of STEM-based activities that will help turn students into the problem solvers of tomorrow. Two other organizations have excellent resources for engineering projects and lessons: TeachEngineering and TryEngineering. Both of these have ideas for lessons that focus on authentic problem-solving.

This month’s Teacher’s Toolkit article Exploring the science Framework and NGSS: Computational thinking in the science classroom is a must-read for all science teachers. It’s a good description of the similarities and differences between mathematical and computational thinking (hint: they’re not the same!).

Here are some SciLinks that provide additional content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s featured articles:

The Science Teacher: Analyzing and Interpreting Data

As students become more adept at accessing, storing, and sharing data, they need to develop the skills and habits of mind necessary to analyze and interpret this data to produce useful information. The Next Generation Science Standards recognize Analyzing and Interpreting Data as one of the eight essential practices of science and engineering. This issue offers ideas for including this important practice in the classroom.

Here are some SciLinks that provide additional content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s featured articles:


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20 Essential NSTA Awards You Can Learn About in 15 Minutes


MMYM_15minBeing a member of NSTA immerses you in a community of educators interested in pushing themselves and their colleagues toward better science education. NSTA has 20 awards for educators and teachers who demonstrate their passion for science education every day.

Recognition not only moves science education forward, but also brings affirmation to hard-working educators. NSTA will recognize hundreds of science teachers at the 2015 National Conference on Science Education in Chicago this March. You could be one of them.

In just 15 minutes, you can browse these awards to see which one is right for you—or for a teacher you know is going above and beyond. Most 2015 award deadlines are fast approaching, so here are some highlights:

Have you been an NSTA member for more than 10 years? This award recognizes NSTA members who have made extraordinary contributions to science education through personal commitment to education and significant contributions to the profession that reflect dedication to NSTA as well the entire educational community.

Deadline: November 30

Sponsored by Dow Chemical Company, the Robert H. Carleton Award is NSTA’s highest honor. The award recognizes one individual who has made outstanding contributions to, and provided leadership in, science education at the national level and to NSTA in particular.

Deadline: November 30

This award provides selected K–12 teachers (up to 25) in their first five years of teaching with funds to attend the annual NSTA National Conference on Science Education. Award recipients will be mentored, tracked, and provided with continuing opportunities for meaningful involvement with NSTA and its activities.

Deadline: November 30

This award recognizes six full-time K–12 teachers of science who successfully use innovation and excellence in their classroom.

Deadline: November 30

Are you passionate about science education? Do not miss your chance to share what you’ve done with NSTA and share your success with the wider science education community.

More Time?

If you haven’t already, make sure to keep the monthly NSTA Reports Grab Bag, which features Freebies for Science Teachers. Learn about national competitions and awards from across the nation and around the globe.

Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.

Laura Berry of Cogberry Creative is our guest blogger for this series. Laura is a communications professional for the education community.

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NSTA’s K–College Science Education Journals: November 2014 Issues Online

Cause and effect, solutions to problems, analyzing and interpreting data, and quantitative reasoning… these are the subjects science teachers are writing about in this month’s K-College journals from NSTA. The November issues are online, in members’ mailboxes, and ready to inspire teachers!

Science and Children

Science and Children coverNo matter the age at which you introduce cause and effect, it must be consciously developed and repeated frequently. The resources in this issue of S&C will help your students extend their understanding of this essential crosscutting concept.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Science Scope

Science Scope coverScience and engineering can offer solutions to many of today’s most challenging problems. In this issue, we explore a number of STEM-based activities that will help turn your students into the problem solvers of tomorrow.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

The Science Teacher

TheScienceTeacherNovember2014Our world is awash in a sea of data. We encounter more data on a daily basis than ever before, conveying information about weather, health, politics, finance, and science. Data arrives via sensors, social media, digital photos, weather stations, and many other sources. As our ability to store and share data increases exponentially, our students must develop the skills and habits of mind necessary to analyze and interpret information. The Next Generation Science Standards recognize Analyzing and Interpreting Data as one of the eight essential practices of science and engineering. This issue offers ideas for including this important practice in your own teaching.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Journal of College Science Teaching

JCST coverRead about a laboratory exercise (the calculation of an individual’s own carbon footprint) designed to teach quantitative reasoning in the context of authentic problems that are relevant to students’ lives. Find out how one group of authors made their undergraduate atmospheric science classes more student centered and collaborative through the implementation of high-altitude balloon research. Don’t miss the article about an ecology course in which textbooks were eliminated and students were allowed to learn science using their cell phones in place of textbooks. Find all this and more in this month’s issue of JCST.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Get these journals in your mailbox as well as your inbox—become an NSTA member!

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Learn to engage students in scientific argumentation

Photo of a gallery walk, where students present their claims and evidence in response to a research question

A gallery walk gives students an opportunity to discuss claims and evidence

In his popular workshops at last week’s NSTA conference in Orlando, Victor Sampson presented tips and strategies for engaging students in scientific argumentation, a key practice of science that helps students master content while they write about and discuss claims and evidence. This month’s Book Beat features classroom activities designed to foster students’ ability to analyze data, construct arguments, and learn to support claims with evidence.

Discussion and Argumentation in the Science Classroom

The goals of science education today include helping students not only understand important concepts but also learn to do science. The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize that students need to understand disciplinary core ideas, be aware of seven crosscutting concepts that span the disciplines of science, and learn how to participate in eight key scientific practices to be proficient in science. One increasingly popular way to knit all these elements together is argument-driven inquiry, an innovative approach to lab instruction and the focus of a growing series of books by Victor Sampson and his colleagues. The just-published Argument-Driven Inquiry in Chemistry: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12 is an engaging approach to lab instruction that brings together content, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices to make labs more authentic and educative for students.The authors place emphasis throughout the book on argumentation—the process of proposing, supporting, evaluating, and refining claims—which the National Research Council advocates using more in today’s Book cover of "Argument-Driven Inquiry in Chemistry: Lab Investigations for Grades 9-12science classes. Download the free lab “Characteristics of Acids and Bases: How Can the Chemical Properties of an Aqueous Solution Be Used to Identify It as an Acid or a Base?”, which gives students an opportunity to devise, test, and refine a method that can be used to classify an aqueous solution as being an acid or a base using the physical or chemical properties of the solution. Students will also learn about the difference between observations and inferences in science and the different methods used in scientific investigations.

        The biology-centered books that use this method include Scientific Argumentation in Biology: 30 Classroom Activities, by Victor Sampson and Sharon Schleigh, and Book cover of "Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology: Lab Investigations for Grades 9-12"Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12, by Victor Sampson et al. Click the book title links above to visit these books’ pages in the Science Store, where you can download sample labs from each of these books. Browse the Fall 2014 NSTA Recommends digital catalog to see the array of books available from NSTA Press across grade levels and science disciplines. Also visit the NGSS@NSTA Hub on the NSTA website for a wealth of additional resources related to NGSS.

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Addressing concerns about activity and healthy eating

Cover of the book, Action Art by MaryAnn KohlWhat could be more fun that creating art while being physically active? An upcoming book by MaryAnn Kohl and Barbara Zaboroski shows how to do just that in ways that encourage children to make choices and control art medium in active ways. I had a sneak preview of Action ART: Hands-on active art adventure and look forward to doing the activities where children get to manipulate materials and make changes, learning about material properties and their own abilities.

child holds sections of orange fruit.Being active is one part of being healthy. Kindergarten teacher and blogger Gail Poulin voices an issue that concerns me too—how we can support children in making healthy food choices when family-packed and school lunches contain enough calorie dense sweet treats to satisfy children’s hunger before they get to the healthier choices of vegetables and healthy proteins?

Modeling the desired behavior makes the healthy choice visible. Teachers can talk about how much they enjoy the crunch of carrots or the flavor of whole grains. A lesson that involves families can support beginning steps towards making food choices that focus on whole grains and vegetable–foods that the USDA and the American Heart Association recommend.

The Early Sprouts curriculum has many choices for activities that include families. An entire year’s curriculum is designed to involve children and families in a seed-to-table experience, broadening their knowledge of and exposure to six target vegetables. They call on us to say if we “like” a food, or if we “don’t like it yet.” (I’ve adopted this practice in experiences with worms and insects–“I have touched a worm” and “I haven’t touched a worm yet.”)

I stand to write on the computer at home to make it easier for me to move, thanks to the advice of a physical therapist. There are many times when we move chairs out of the way so children can stand and move around to work at a table. What kinds of changes have you made to your program to support activity and healthy food choices?

Cover of NAEYC journal Young ChildrenThe November 2014 issue of Young Children, a journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, focuses on nutrition and fitness for all young children.  In the article, “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Strategies to Help Preschoolers Develop Healthy Eating Habits,” Dr. Brent McBride and Dr. Dipti Dev urge us to help children recognize their own internal cues of hunger and fullness by asking “Are you full?” or saying, “You can have more if you are hungry.” This respects and supports children’s self-regulation of the food they need to fuel their bodies and increases the likelihood that children will make healthy eating decisions.

Do you have strategies for being active or eating healthy choices that you have adopted or practice in your early childhood program?

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NSTA Web Seminars Bring the Experts to You


NSTA knows not all teachers can travel, which is why our online programs bring NSTA experts and faculty directly to you. NSTA Web Seminars are free, live professional learning experiences that allow participants to interact with nationally acclaimed experts, NSTA Press authors, and scientists, engineers, and education specialists from NSTA partner organizations.

Free interactive online education is a great opportunity to enhance your understanding of content and pedagogy. Take advantage of the free online tools, including materials to strengthen your understanding of  the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

NSTA’s web seminars are hosted in the NSTA Learning Center and participants earn 100 Learning Center activity points and a certificate of participation for attending and completing the evaluation form at the end of the program.

  • Register for Upcoming Web Seminars
    With a dozen live web seminars through November and December, NSTA Learning Center is helping you schedule professional development time on your calendar. Get involved in the NGSS conversation, ask questions from presenters, and download all the free materials.
  • Interact with the presenter and participants via a chat window and interactive polls and slides.
  • Meet and network with other educators from across the country and around the world.
  • Explore the Archives
    Can’t participate live? Hundreds of seminars have been archived and are available for viewing after the live event has occurred. The archive includes  the capture of the live presentation—and it’s free to all!

Brew a cup of coffee, curl up with your laptop, and enjoy content from NASA, NOAA, NSF and so many other great partners. NSTA Web Seminars are a great way to access the treasure trove of NSTA materials.

Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.

Laura Berry of Cogberry Creative is our guest blogger for this series. Laura is a communications professional for the education community.

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Prepping for a pre-service teacher

I agreed to work with a student teacher next semester, and I’m looking forward to the experience. I teach three classes of biology and an AP class at the high school and two sections of middle school science. Should the student teacher take all of these preps, including the middle school one? In addition to classroom teaching, should the student teacher take on my other duties? What else do I need to know?

P, California

Pre-service teachers can learn a lot in their content courses, methods courses, and classroom visits, but there is no substitute for real day-to-day teaching. It’s hard to let go of your own classes and have some one else take over, especially when he or she might make mistakes. You’ll find that you’re working just as hard as you did when you did not have a student teacher, but it’s a different kind of work (and a form of professional development).

Contact the college or university student teaching office or check the student teaching handbook to find out what duties the student teacher is to assume and any other suggested or required activities. Ask questions: What are the supervisor’s expectations for phasing the student teacher into your teaching schedule? What lesson plan format will the student teacher use? What are the student teacher’s content strengths and areas of certification? Is co-teaching an option for some sections? How and by whom will the student teacher be evaluated? What are the procedures if the student teacher is not the right fit for your school or classes? It would be great if you can meet the student teacher and supervisor prior to the first day to discuss and clarify these and other expectations and requirements

With the way the job market is, it might be good for your student teacher to have a variety of experiences, including some with younger students, assuming his certifications will include this level. I was assigned to a junior high situation as a student teacher and found that I really enjoyed the younger students. (I spent 17 subsequent years in the seventh grade!) Or he can decide that they’re not for him and focus a job search on high school. Even if he does not totally take over the middle school or AP classes, it still would give him some exposure to these courses.

In the real world, many teachers have multiple preps, so it would be helpful for your student teacher to understand how to coordinate planning and class activities. Perhaps co-teaching the middle school or AP class would be a possibility. It would also be important for him to have experiences with students who have special needs and to understand the requirements and documentation associated with Individual Education Plans.

Continue reading …

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