Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
September 24th, 2010 by Luann

Fixing Broken Assumptions

Brokentruck by Luann

I just began year 22 of classroom teaching.  My goal is never to become one of those “old” teachers, sneering at innovation while pulling an ancient worksheet from a dog-eared folder. I’ve asked younger colleagues to alert me should they observe these tendencies in my practice.  I actively seek and provide a variety of professional development for myself and my colleagues.  I’m active in various professional learning communities. My paper and electronic files are pruned and revised regularly.  And I listen to students, with a focus this past year on the learning skills of a particularly interesting class of intentional non-learners.  You know the type.  They enter the classroom with their minds on everything else; pencils and paper, it they have any, remain in their backpacks. Their faces say, “Teach me.  I dare you.”  They have little respect for anything, often including themselves.

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July 15th, 2010 by Luann

Attention Elementary Teachers:

I’m analyzing data from pre-service elementary science teachers who are working on an inquiry learning project.  I’m a bit surprised with the results.  Before I share, I’d like to hear from some elementary teachers about your current teaching of science and your teacher preparation program.  What do you feel you teach really well in science?  Where and how did you learn to do this well?  In what areas do you most want to grow?

I can’t wait for your comments.  In the meantime, I’m back to data analysis.

October 13th, 2009 by Luann

Books for Kids

A meeting today in our district made me aware of 3 things:

  1. Our K-5 kids need books.  Informational books, storybooks, any books.They have no books to take home to read.
  2. Our K-5 teachers don’t have any science materials.
  3. Our K-5 kids, many of them anyway, are reading way below grade level.
  4. We have nearly no intervention materials.

Here’s my plan:

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August 18th, 2009 by Luann

Quote for the Year

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 – )

Sometimes, a little attitude can go a long way.

July 19th, 2009 by Luann

Ten Ways to Raise a Non-scientist

Awhile back, I read a list of 13 ways to raise a non-reader.  If you know where I might have read it. please let me know so I can give credit where it’s due.  The list inspired me to create a lost of 10 ways to raise a non-scientist.

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May 8th, 2009 by Luann

A Profession Driven By Data ?

We learn about data in our teacher-preparation programs; at least I did, 20+ years ago.  I learned how to count up my students’ correct answers and compare them to the incorrect answers to pinpoint areas of difficulty among these students.

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April 21st, 2009 by Luann

Poke Sharpened Pencils Through My Eyes

It’s day 2 of the Science WASL.

Most students finished an hour or so early.  I brought Starburst® candy for my group, who stuck through the torture yesterday like troopers.

Today, they quietly and gratefully consumed the candy after completing the test.  It took most of them no more than 1 hour.  Walking around, I noticed that students at one table quietly  made a fleet of tiny boats from the wrappers.  Students at another table appeared to be having a silent-movie version of a candy-wrapper-airplane contest.

I would have taken a photo to share but cell phones weren’t allowed.

April 19th, 2009 by Luann


From Kelly Hines, RT @eduinnovation: “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow”

I just liked this today.

March 28th, 2009 by Luann

How I Came to be a National Board Certified Teacher

Every year, as the deadline for portfolio submissions nears or scores are released, I find that candidates take comfort and amusement at my own certification story.

Flashback to mid-October 1997.  I was in my 9th year of teaching chemistry.  I’d also taught biology, physics, and pretty much every math class besides calculus. The district’s curriculum director appeared outside my classroom door one day.  She had a news email (back in those days, teachers didn’t have email accounts, so admins had to print anything they wanted to share) from the Ohio Department of Education.  She offered me the paper and pointed to a paragraph near the bottom of the page. “Here is some information about a new national certificate.  Tom (an Algebra I teacher in my building) is going to do it in Math.  This is the first year science teachers are eligible.  I think you should do it too.”

I took the paper.  There was a cost of $2500. Ohio would pay the entire cost except for $65 to enroll.  After certification, I would receive $2500 per year, but that’s not all.  Enroll now and there would also be professional development and countless opportunities for professional advances.

I made the call after school and requested the enrollment package. It arrived about a week later.  I spent the better part of a Saturday preparing the paperwork and writing letters to verify employment, education, principal support, identification, etc.  Geez, I thought, I am not sure what the point is, but hey, for $2500 a year for 10 years, I was in. I would soon have a child in college. Just before Christmas, a box (THE Box) arrived from NBPTS.  I placed it next to my desk at home, too busy to open it at that point, and forgot about it.

A week or so later, I picked it up while vacuuming and thought that it felt a bit heavy to be a certificate. I opened it; any candidate who’s been certified for several years would recognize the huge 3-ring binder with hundreds of pages of instructions, the means of sending directions before DVD’s and downloads. The first day back to school after break, I trotted into the curriculum director’s office, dropped the box on her desk with a resounding THUD and said, (expletives deleted), “What is THIS????”

Curriculum Director replied, “Yeah, Tom got one of those over break – I guess now you guys have to fill that out, too. You have to make videotapes for it.  I got a grant to pay for the videos but Tom is using it all so you’ll have to get creative.”
I said, “I don’t have time to do this!  It’s due in June.  I have to teach.”
Curriculum Director: “If you don’t do it, I think you have to pay Ohio back the $2500.”

I managed not to choke her; being a teacher, I have tremendous self-restraint. I did have a few chemistry units that I had been meaning to revise; perhaps this would give me the prodding I needed to polish up those units. I read and re-read and made notes in my copy of the subject-area standards. Wow, I thought. If only every teacher worked toward those standards, every child would surely benefit.

So, I “filled it out.” I had no facilitator, no cohort group, no one to read my entries and provide feedback.  Tom and I didn’t even really talk much about our work.  We just didn’t know what to say.  After all, we were in 2 different subject areas.  What help could we possibly be to one another?

I set up a template for each part of each entry I had to write and made folders for them, named, well, I really shouldn’t say what I named them. I planned lessons that put previous lessons to shame, analyzed student work through new eyes, and planned new goals to help each student succeed.  I had a student who could push buttons to videotape my classes. I read the prompts for each entry and answered them as best I could. I said vocabulary words under my breath – words I hadn’t realized I knew. I revised, described my lessons and videos, I analyzed each lesson at the atomic level, and then reflected until I felt like a giant concave mirror, knowing even then that this would be the best professional learning I’d ever have.

Nine years in, most teachers begin to feel comfortable. According to some literature, we peak sometime after year 5.  The National Board process created a new, much higher peak I had to climb. I walked into class every day during the process as a more accomplished educator. A lesson I thought was good the week before was no longer acceptable as part of my practice, and was tweaked to be the best thing for my students at that time and place in their learning. I saw that I was impacting student learning in ways I never knew I could do. My focus was on becoming a better teacher, not on the portfolio I would submit. I followed the instructions in the portfolio.  I re-read everything I wrote, editing for clarity. I Xeroxed and filled in all the cover forms. I put everything in the correct envelope (apparently). I sent it in, all 6 entries (remember this was in the Olden Days.)

I signed up for the test on the only day in August that the AYA/Science test was offered.  I went to Belize twice that summer with student groups, and returned just in time to make it to the assessment center. I promptly forgot about the whole process until October, when I got a letter saying I should watch for a FedEx package in early November.  It would contain my results. Results?  What did they mean, results? Wasn’t I to get a certificate?  I called 1-800-22TEACH (again) to ask.  No, someone told me, less than half of the teachers who send in a portfolio are certified.  WTF? All that work could be for nothing? I thanked the nice lady with all the courtesy I could muster and hung up.

Beginning on November 1, I went home daily at lunch to check for a package. Nothing. A few more days; still nothing.  I decided not to bother going home anymore.  Obviously this whole thing was some kind of horrible hoax. All that writing experience would serve me well as I would most likely be filing reports and claims with the BBB. The day I stopped checking for packages, my chemistry classes were doing the Water of Hydration lab.  Odd, how I still remember that.  A student office aide appeared at my door near the end of 5th period, carrying a flat FedEx box.  I looked at the sender – NBPTS.  My fingers trembled and I thought how I would no doubt have to call 1-800-22TEACH (again) and ask for an explanation as to why I did not get a certificate.  I had sent in damn good stuff.

The class was cleaning up and I wondered whether to open the envelope immediately, or to wait until after school.  I later learned that my husband had stopped at home by chance, found the letter, brought it to the HS office, and  handed it to my friend Sue the secretary. Sue then made her aide bring it to me because both she and my husband were too afraid. Not being a patient person, I did not hold that thought long.

“Congratulations,” the letter began. I searched the enclosed leaflet for my scores.  Was there some mistake? Could this be true? I was certified? Yes indeed.  Although there was actually a mistake on AYA/Science score reports that year (the last two assessment center exercise scores were not printed but were included in the total score) I had way more than enough points to certify. I was one of 98 science teachers in the country to achieve certification that inaugural year.

Tom was not so fortunate. He needed to submit twice more as what we now know as an advanced candidate, but he finally certified.  Those times, I read his entries and offered feedback.  He was an excellent teacher, but had difficulty simply writing to the prompts.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege  of facilitating dozens of successful candidates in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Oregon. I know that I learn at least as much from each candidate as he or she does from me. In November 2007, I got word that my renewal Profile of Professional Growth earned renewed status.  All that I learned and all that I continue to learn, largely as a result of the National Board process, continues to be the most organic and impactful professional learning I’ve ever undertaken, including a doctoral program in science education. Candidates, take heart.  Fellow NBCT’s, congratulations.

Update, April 28, 2014
The growth and learning continue. I’ve taught courses at both undergraduate and graduate level at 2 state universities. Working with pre-service teachers is a privilege. Working with teachers is an honor.  Facilitating National Board candidates is challenging, intensive, and stretches my thinking in ways I’d never imagined. Meeting with renewal candidates as they share their professional growth in practice since initial certification is like having a direct line into the practice of the very best in the profession.  Optimal professional learning and improvement to our practice comes from networking with accomplished teachers. The National Board Certification process has provided the opportunity to network with the best of the best in my profession and has given me the skills I needed to learn all that I can from each one. It’s who I am as a professional. I’d love for you to join me as I continue learning to do the very best I can for Oregon’s children.

I’ll renew again in 2016-17, year 28 of my career. I don’t want to have to say that I used to be a National Board Certified Teacher.

Update, November 28, 2018

I renewed for a second time and am a National Board Certified Teacher until November 2028. I’ll likely retire from the classroom before then.

March 24th, 2009 by Luann

So you are now a National Board Candidate?

As we wrap up one portfolio submission cycle and are deluged with masses of new candidates (especially here in Washington State where bonuses are, for the present, possibly somewhat secure) I am compelled to make a list of hints for candidates, from a facilitator’s point of view.

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