Sunday, February 15, 2015

In the Midst of Madness

Looking over the schedule for the next couple months can be daunting for both my students and myself. In trying to hold, students, teachers, and administrators accountable for maintaining high levels of performance, lawmakers have designed a testing regiment that is enough to shake faith in the public education system. In fact, there are reports of very successful and recognized teachers that are throwing in the towel. Their view and dreams for education are being destroyed by the very same assessment practices that are filling up my calendar like crazy!

Given time to think of all this and what it means to me, my students, my administration, and my community, I find it necessary to give myself a little pep talk. I need to remind myself of what science truly IS and what science looks like in my classroom. I sketched out my ideas in 2 parts. 

 First, what science tools and resources do we use in the classroom? Brought in by grant, provided by my school, or free…these are the ways we explore science. The true challenge and excitement for me is finding the perfect blend for the student. Like a special recipe, what ingredients do I put together to capture my students’ attention, draw them into the conversation, and make them an engaged and valued participant? Not every student needs or wants the same recipe. So, how do I differentiate for 115+ different people? That is an end game that I am still working to perfect! Time, experiences, and evaluating carefully is the key. You can see that the resources and tools are varied. Some are more treasured by students than others. 

Secondly, what do I ultimately want students to believe science is all about? When they leave my classroom, I don’t want them to view science as a 45 minute block in their day. I want them to develop a way of approaching all parts of their world. I want them to appreciate the complexity and beauty in the world by becoming careful observers and having thoughtful interactions with the people, places, and ideas that they will come across. Science literacy is a guiding theme in the classroom. Applying that literacy to the events that occur in their lives is the end goal. You can see from the image that what I want my young scientist to obtain is more general than the standards of my 8th grade curriculum. These guiding principles help me to present the material to my students (hopefully) in a way that supports their understanding, challenges their preconceived ideas, and guides them to finding truth in the world around them. Regardless of the test questions and topics, this is my approach to science.

So, how do I balance the holes that show up in our schedule with the multitude of tests? How do I help students to be as successful as possible in the constraints that these tests apply? How do I help students see a more balanced view of their science growth? 

So many questions. So many concerns. With limits on time and concern for my students, I have to do the best that I possibly can…

Using the tools that we have and my view of what science is, we will review with OUR work samples. During this year, my students have created some fantastic work samples that highlight the science and their understanding and humor. From Toontastic cartoons about the Law of Superposition to Keynote slide shows of topography, we have great review materials. Posters of the geologic eras and videos of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Amazing notes in the Paper by 53 app! Flip vocabulary resources that the students have been steadily building all year long…time to bring out those manipulatives that I have stored up! The list goes on…

So, no packets. No drill and kill. I’m just going to remind them of the science that they know and review the approach that scientists take to breaking apart problems. How will they perform on the tests? I don’t know. I do know that in the midst of this madness, I don’t want to lose sight of my students, my craft that I have worked hard to refine, and the science that is so exciting. My personal pep talk continues in my mind.


  1. Bravo! I think when educators take the pressure of state testing out of the equation they come up with the real idea - guiding students to LOVE learning, to think on their own and to ask questions. Love your self reflection and your personal pep talk! We all should do this! (Also love your graphics!!!)

    Be Well!

    1. Nancy, It is so great to hear from you! I miss my 4/5th grade team. You have such passion for your students. I always think of you as a motivator. :)