Category Archives: Ms. Mentor

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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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Ideas for science “camp”






I’ve been asked to teach a voluntary summer enrichment science class for 20 upper elementary students.  I can determine the content and structure for the class. I have a modest budget, access to the science resources in the school, and the principal will assist with logistics. I’ve never done this before, so I’m looking for […]

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Sparking Discussions






Students in most of my classes actively participate. But in one freshman class, students are engaged in labs, but they just stare at me during class discussions. I ask open-ended questions a lot and make an effort to get students involved. How can I get these students more involved? – R., Iowa Who knows what’s […]

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Teaching as an art form






I’m preparing to be a chemistry teacher. In addition to chemistry and teacher prep classes, what else should I study to become an effective teacher? More math or physics? —T., Colorado While math and physics are important (especially if you’re pursuing other certifications), you also could become familiar with another language and the special education […]

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Contacting parents






I have several students in my biology classes who are very disruptive. I know I should contact their parents, but as a new teacher I’ve never done this. How I should handle this? —C., California I found at the secondary level, it was more effective to work with the students first, then contact parents (or […]

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Setting personal and professional priorities






I teach fifth and sixth grade science, and I’m finding it hard to balance teaching, grad school, and family responsibilities. Are there any secrets for this? —E., Washington Everyone’s situation varies, so unfortunately there are no universal secrets. It may help to prioritize activities into essential, nice-if–you-can-get-to-it, and back burner. Your family and your health […]

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