Throughout my work at Michigan State University, I have focused on two major areas in my personal growth. The primary work I have done has been in the realm of becoming a better science educator. I have done so by taking numerous courses in science, technology, and literacy that have allowed for deeper a deeper understanding of both my content and pedagogy. In addition to my growth as teacher, I have also focused heavily on honing my leadership skills. While ultimately I have decided to not continue towards a degree in administration, a variety of administration courses have proven to be useful to me as I continue at my job.
Growing as a Science Educator
Reading In the Science Classroom:
One of the most important skills a science student can have is the ability to read and analyze scientific text. While this is a vital skill, it is also one that is often times overlooked by science teachers who are overwhelmed with content area concerns and are not trained to teach literacy techniques. In order to help students improve reading analysis I suggest the use of various articles coupled with annotating practice in class. These readings supplement the curriculum in a way that is not burdensome to science teachers. I tested the readings, activities, and assessments in a case study analysis.
Understanding Waves in Introductory Physics:
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are now in place in Michigan and present science educators with a new and robust set of content standards. One of the struggles we face is taking these standards and applying them to the world of "low level learners". The way the content is taught also must be carefully analyzed allowing for students to explore and come to various conclusions themselves. With these goals in mind, I developed lesson plans for my low level physics course in the area of waves and wave mathematics.
Analysis of Real World Problems in Chemistry:
While new standards in the form of NGSS are a major shift for science teachers, they also come with a variety of other facets. In particular, a major component of NGSS are "science and engineering" practices which emphasize real world applications of science. In chemistry these are difficult to include due to chemistry's safety concerns and requirement for deep background information. In the development of my lessons on nuclear chemistry, my goal was to create an activity where students could research and discuss the pros and cons of nuclear power as an energy source. Through this project students would not only gain a better understanding of nuclear chemistry, but also analyze and defend a major global energy topic.
Growing as a Leader
The Importance of Learning Societies:
One of the most valuable lessons in leadership that I have learned during my time at Michigan State is the importance of creating a learning society or learning community. This has been a theme across many of my leadership courses. When individuals are willing to come together and work towards a common goal there can be great success. When acting in the role of administrator or teacher leader, it is important to foster a group culture, develop deep relationships over time, and ensure that work done (in a school setting) is student oriented.
Analyzing School Organization:
Schools are complex machines that involve a variety of different systems. Various groups and individuals have to work together in harmony to solve difficult problems and keep the entire organization moving forward. Before elephants in the room can be dealt with successfully, it is vital for a leader to be able to analyze and develop an understanding of the organization. When faced with the issue of special needs students falling through the cracks, I knew a solution had to be developed. Through interviews, data analysis, and collaboration I was able to propose a possible solution to this issue which could be implemented at my school.
Improving Failing Schools:
One of the major tasks of a school leader is to understand how to turn around a failing school. This tremendous job ultimately falls on a variety of parties including district leaders, principals, and teachers. The difficulty of this task is best exemplified by the Detroit Public Schools. Through detailed analysis of their work, I was able to better understand some of the techniques that one can use in order to help students in a struggling district, and to make schools stronger. It was through analysis of DPS that I have been able to better understand and help some of my students who may be struggling with various problems at home (poverty, family drama, truancy, etc.).
The Importance of Continued Teacher Learning:
One of the courses I enjoyed most gave me the opportunity to develop a year-long plan to guide teacher learning. As educators we often focus on students so much that we forget the importance of personal growth. With new standards in science (NGSS) and a variety of shifts at the district level, my ability to understand teacher learning has been instrumental in my work creating curriculum for various science courses this year. I was able to take my plan and submit it to our science coordinator when I was done developing it. Though the plan was not used in its entirety, several facets have been implemented in order to maximize teacher professional development in science this year.