Category Archives: Ask a Mentor

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Student questions

What do I do when a student asks a question related to the lesson and I don’t know the answer? I don’t have a strong background in science, and as a beginning teacher this makes me nervous. —C., Massachusetts Virtually every teacher has been in this situation, with curious students or those who want more […]

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Interview lesson

I’m a recent graduate, looking for an elementary teaching position. I’ve heard I could be asked to teach a lesson as part of an interview. How should I prepare? —N., Ohio Sometimes the interview process does have a performance component. I’ve been part of the process (as both the interviewer and interviewee) in which applicants […]

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Successful interviews

As a recent graduate, I’m preparing for interviews. Do you have any hints for successful interviews? —A., Minnesota I’ve been on interview committees, and when applicants have comparable credentials, little things can make an impression. In addition to what your college mentors recommended for interviewing, I’d suggest the following. Do some research before the interview […]

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Summer suggestions

I teach fourth grade, looping with them to fifth. I’m thinking of ways to keep my students and their families involved with science over the summer. I don’t have a lot of money to spend.  —D., Florida Since you’ll see the students next year, you have a wonderful opportunity for action research on the results […]

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Cooperative grouping

In science classes, do students work better in random groups or with their friends? I’m a student teacher in middle school. – S., Arizona Most teachers will tell you there is no best way to set up groups. There are many variables, including the age of the students, the structure of the investigation, the students’ […]

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Effective meetings

Do you have any ideas for faculty meetings for a new science department chairperson? I’m sure I can handle most of the responsibilities, but I’m terrified of leading meetings. —S., Indiana Facilitating a meeting is not unlike teaching a class, so apply your classroom management strategies to “meeting management.” Send out an agenda prior to […]

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Coaching a colleague

I coach teachers at an elementary school. One teacher is trying to improve his science instruction (one of the school goals), but he’s struggling with classroom management and organization during class activities. I’ve shared some ideas, but I’m looking for more. —S., Pennsylvania Many teachers did not experience hands-on science as students and may be […]

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Why are we doing this?

I have some chemistry students who ask “Why do we have to learn this?” How can I address this other saying “you’ll need it in college.” —D., Delaware Why are we studying this? What good is this? It’s easy to answer student questions like these with “because it will be on the test” or “because […]

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Keep PD sessions focused

Recently, there was a question about what to do when students were off-task. I conduct many professional development programs, and I could use some ideas to keep adult participants on-task! —T., Virginia As a presenter, it’s frustrating to see participants grading papers, texting, or reading the news. But in all fairness to our colleagues, their […]

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Classroom atmosphere

I recently took a teaching position, after several years in a different job. I thought I could create a calm, focused atmosphere in my middle school science classes, but some of my students have really annoying and off-task behaviors. How do I deal with this. —C., Maryland Even though they try to act like adults, […]

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