Category Archives: Ask a Mentor

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Quick Lab and Activity Assessments

I would like to include a rubric when students are completing various labs and activities in science. Could you share any examples? – A., Iowa I have found that checklists, in particular, are good assessment tools during a lab. The objective is to quickly assess and record student performance while still monitoring the lab as you […]

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Sub Plans for Physics

This is my first year of teaching physics and I can’t think of generic substitute plans for this class. Can you suggest some generic/emergency plans that could help me?  – E., Michigan One of the hardest things is to wake up knowing you can’t make it to work and you’re now scrambling to provide something […]

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Cool/Hot Tech

I have been thinking about getting a thermal imaging camera. Specifically, an attachment for an iPhone that allows it to do thermal imaging. If you had one in your classroom, what would you use it for?  – R., Alaska This is a great idea! Having a hands-on device to explore phenomena beyond our senses is an […]

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Mass Marking

We are incorporating more writing opportunities in our middle school and high school science classes, both “formal” and ”informal” writings. How can one teacher grade more than 180 pieces of writing in a timely fashion with feedback that allows students to learn and grow?  – L., California   Here are some things I have tried […]

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Value Your Support Staff

I hope that everyone has learned who the most important adults in the school are: the support staff! Custodians, administrative assistants, teachers’ assistants (TAs)— these people are invaluable and can make your life much easier. Many of these people have been working with young people for a long time and will often have insights and […]

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Overwhelmed

I’m a new teacher and I can’t believe how ragged I feel—I seem to be just barely ahead of the class. I have lessons that are not going to plan and I feel like I’m just running around non-stop. Please help! —W., Virginia This is probably no surprise to anyone in the first months of teaching: […]

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Starting a Club

I would like to contribute to the extra-curricular activities in my school, but I’m not sure what I can do. Do you have any suggestions? —T., Pennsylvania Some of my most rewarding teaching experiences often centered around extra-curricular science clubs. The appeal of a club (for the teacher and students) is that it is not a formal […]

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A“Fair Test”

I’m starting to plan some formal assessments but, because it’s my first time, I’m not exactly sure if I’m creating a test correctly. Do you have any advice? —L., Nebraska The notion of a fair test is an important tenet in science and we strive to teach our students how to develop unbiased data collection for […]

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Hello everyone!

Wow, do I have big shoes to fill! Mary Bigelow is stepping down as NSTA’s original Ms. Mentor after years of advising teachers across the globe. She has demonstrated a noteworthy commitment to helping the science teaching community with thoughtful, sage advice on a vast array of topics. And now I’m taking over. Wow. As […]

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Retooled, not retired

I did not have a formal mentor when I was a new teacher. As I struggled, several colleagues and an administrator must have seen some potential and offered me advice and support. I was glad to return the favor during my career as a classroom teacher and administrator by mentoring and providing professional development. However, […]

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