Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
September 20th, 2015 by Luann

All Means All, Part 4: Learning from Parents

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. #AllMeansAll 

At the beginning of each year, I send a safety contract home with my students to sign with their parents. .  There’s also a place for parent and student to sign that they read and understand the course information and syllabus. The truly important questions, though, are on the other side of the paper.

Yes, I want to know what parents expect for their child in my class. While this survey is far from scientific, every year the answers I receive cause me to reconsider how I communicate with students and parents. Here, in general terms to protect privacy, is a summary of some of the most common comments from parents explaining what they want for their kids. Some comments are not at all surprising. Some comments, however, make me step back and think.

Parents want me to:

  • be enthusiastic about our learning.
  • be a really great teacher.
  • know if their child will learn to work with chemicals safely.
  • treat their children courteously and with respect.
  • know their children are kind, funny, clever, interesting, talented, intelligent, hard-working, conscientious, scared, stressed, anxious, are quick learners, struggle with math, are gifted artists and writers and musicians.
  • be available for any help their child might need with understanding concepts or learning skills.They want me to know their child doesn’t always like to ask for help.
  • communicate with them if there are any issues with their children, be they behavioral or academic – assignments missing, failing grades. They want to hear from me if they call or email.
  • actually teach the class and not just hand out papers and expect students to understand.
  • know they can’t help with chemistry homework.
  • provide career guidance and prepare their children for college.

Parents want their children to:

  • be challenged appropriately.
  • enjoy science and learning.
  •  “just please pass this class.”
  • be able to ask questions and get answers delivered in a way that doesn’t make their child feel like an idiot.
  • be challenged.
  • be given clear expectations

Parents want to know what they can do to help their children be successful.

Most of all, each parent wants me to know his/her child; to know that Rosa loves her dogs more than anything; that Abby is on the state equestrian team and is a horse whisperer; that John needs frequent check-ins for understanding, that Katie lost her glasses and won’t be able to get a new pair for 3 weeks; that Zach is having surgery in October and will miss at least a week, that Mindy has anxiety attacks before tests but does just fine if I offer some reassurance beforehand that I know she can do well; that Jose wants to be a physicist and will take AP Chemistry and physics both next year; and that Roger wants to take over his grandfather’s machine shop after graduation.

There are very few surprise responses. Parents do ask questions,  and they expect answers.

How am I changed by knowing all this?  Students love knowing that I know a bit about them when I plan our work together. I can better craft physical and emotional learning environments that meet all students’ needs. I know  student seating preferences, who is reserved about speaking out, who doesn’t read aloud in class,  There’s something positive to talk about when I call home.

What do you do to better know your students?

September 14th, 2015 by Luann

All Means All Part 3: Graphing our Learning Styles

This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

Disclaimer: I’ve read a good deal of literature and opinion around the validity of learning styles. Nonetheless, at the encouragement of a colleague (this colleague) during some collaborative course design work, I pulled out the learning styles inventory* again this year, in Physical Science classes. The intent was to use the data gathered to introduce graphing, and that was a win.  The colleague suggested we share with students WHY we are interested in their learning styles. We are interested so that we can be sure to make learning available to all students in the modality each student best learns. We discussed this in both classes. The real win, though, was what I learned about my students, and what they learned about themselves.

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September 12th, 2015 by Luann

All Means ALL, Part 2: Engineering Design

This is the second in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

Created during Champions of STEM work with BSCS, who probably

On the first day in Physical Science, we got into teams and built paper towers as an engineering design challenge. Our process followed the outlined by a group of district STEM teachers working together last school year.

The challenge was simple: Build the tallest tower you can with 4 sheets of 8.5 x 11: paper.

First, a little history on this class:

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September 11th, 2015 by Luann

All Means ALL, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

This year, my district has adopted a motto.

All means ALL.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this……

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August 29th, 2015 by Luann

Seeking an Instructional Coach Who…

Are you an instructional coach? If so, have you encountered teachers who don’t think they need your services? You know, that old, cranky teacher whom you assume pulls out the same copy of a lesson plan each year because they’ve “always done it this way;” the teacher who doesn’t jump at every new app or piece of hardware, the teacher who eyerolls when new methods are introduced with excitement?  Here are some questions, in no particular order, you might want to be ready to answer before you walk into this teacher’s classroom:

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August 19th, 2015 by Luann

Modeling Accomplished Teaching: The Antithesis of “PD”

It’s no secret that I have scorned the term “professional development” and the acronym for years. I love learning about science, nature, how the world works, how we learn, my craft, food, people, many things. I love talking with other teachers about our practice. It’s not the learning I resist, it’s the failed attempts to “develop” skills in professionals with no acknowledgement of what or how professionals prefer to learn.

Again this summer, I had the opportunity to take part in some genuine learning with groups of accomplished teachers. Each time, our work together took place over 3-4 days. The leaders were not administrators, or university professors, or edu-experts who are no longer in the classroom, or techno-geeks with apps or gizmos purported to make learning happen. They were all simply incredibly accomplished classroom teachers.

Something truly wonderful happens when accomplished teachers are leaders of professional learning. The very skills that are the foundation of their classroom awesomeness drive their work with other teacher-learners. There is no sit-n-git.  No one leaves with the feeling that they are to “do as I say but not as I did.” There is no time for participant web-surfing or Facebooking. No time for phone games. Everyone is engaged and learning because they are doing the learning, not listening to the leaning. Every teacher makes meaning of and owns the leaning. And when teachers return to their classrooms, they will certainly implement their work in their own classrooms.

Here’s a partial list of the engaging strategies we used during our work together. If you are a teacher, you’ll probably recognize some of them.

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June 2nd, 2015 by Luann

Baccalaureate 2015

I was honored to be asked to address the Newberg High School’s Class of 2015 Baccalaureate Service. I’ve posted an unedited transcript, below.


Throughout the past 4 years, I’ve had the honor of working with and getting to know many members of the class of 2015. My assigned job, my main job, was to teach science, to prepare students for their respective futures. I may have been invited here tonight to teach; but the more I thought about what to say, I realized this class taught me at least as much as I tried to give to them. Tonight,  I’d like to share some of the life lessons the class of 2015 taught to me.

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March 31st, 2015 by Luann

A Perspective on STEM in the US and Interesting Implications

Today, I read this article from the Washington Post. The author’s opinions of STEM are interesting. The connection to STEM as I know it is pretty broad. Some claims are backed up with evidence, some simply reinforce his stance on a liberal education for all.

The author made some great points. I read with interest.  The twelfth paragraph really jumped out at me.

“No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (and the owner of this newspaper), insists that his senior executives write memos, often as long as six printed pages, and begins senior-management meetings with a period of quiet time, sometimes as long as 30 minutes, while everyone reads the “narratives” to themselves and makes notes on them. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, Bezos said: “Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”

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December 23rd, 2014 by Luann

NBPTS v3.0 Selected Response Item Review: A Trip to The Dark Side

I field-tested the National Board v3.0  AYA Science Constructed Response and  Selected Response Assessment Center components. I was then invited to the Item Review, to happen here:


Know thine enemy, I’d been told. Besides, if I didn’t go check this out, how would I ever be able to comment with credibility on the process?

I went.

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November 1st, 2014 by Luann

The Dollar Tree and The Scientific Method Poster

You log into Facebook, and there’s THAT friend, the grammar expert.  The well-meaning grammar cop who is on a personal mission to correct every grammar or spelling error, ever.  The friend who would bring together the programmers who created Autocorrect for a workshop.  We accept that person. We love that person, and sometimes we learn from that person.  Some of us may or may not recognize ourselves in that person. I am not that person. Oh, no. I have a far more nerdy mission.

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