ChemEd2015: The ULTIMATE Collaborative for Chemistry Teachers Across the Nation

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Dr. Karen Pompeo and Me

During the final week of July 2015, I attended the National ChemEd conference. Because it was located in Kennesaw, Georgia, it was easy for me to participate, but I discovered why people traveled from far and away to attend. This conference was the epitome of professional learning for chemistry teachers, a gathering of like-minded people who assembled for what was likely their last week of summer vacation.

I met several people like myself: people who are somewhat introverted, but who persuade ourselves to be extroverted for the sake of our careers. And for the sake of energizing our students. We oohed and aahed over chemistry demonstrations. We contorted our eyebrows in puzzling confusion during lessons that stretched our minds. We laughed at corny jokes about atoms, moles, and chemical reactions. We talked about stoichiometry and voltaic cells as easily as we discussed what we might eat for lunch. We discovered new experiments, just when we thought we had seen them all. Most significantly, we learned that those of us who teach chemistry LOVE doing what we do.

Teaching chemistry is not easy. First of all, the material is difficult. Even chemistry teachers have to keep learning to understand it from every angle. Secondly, it’s challenging for students. Providing rigorous coursework is great, in theory, but many students resist challenges. SO – part of our job is motivating students to learn. And once we motivate the students, we need to make sure the kids understand the highly conceptual topics. Finally, we need to convince our students of how critical chemistry is, in our personal lives as well as in our society. We need to prepare a sufficient amount of students to take over the ambitious task of doing chemistry and of keeping our communities and our nation competitive, innovative, and strong.

After I attend a conference, I usually end up carrying around a mishmash of colorful handouts and business cards. I carry them for a couple weeks hoping to assimilate my new knowledge and then I end up stuffing them into a drawer. With this blog, I hope to compile the best of the information I gathered instead of keeping it all in the proverbial drawer. Of course, I have the electronic files that were shared by most of the presenters, an invaluable tool that is easy to find when I need it.

Below is a summary of my personal highlights of the ChemEd Conference. Thanks to ALL who contributed and worked hard to deliver original, useful resources for us.

  • Ramsey Musallam inspired us to reach students through curiosity, rigor, and a bit of fun. He challenged us to find a way to cross the bridge from teaching into learning. Because teaching can only be “great” if learning takes place, right? See Ramsey in his TED Talk on 3 Rules to Spark Learning.
    2015-07-29 13.17.23
  • With real live Vernier chemists, I did spectroscopy and tested pH, temperature, conductivity, melting point. I learned straight from Jack Randall, writer of the Vernier Lab Manuals that I use. I also spoke with the specialists who answer our desperate phone calls when we stumble and need assistance with our treasured probeware.
  • I met a young lady who is passionate about her job. But, she is not a high school chemistry teacher. She is an aeromedical chemist who does technical writing and editing for the US Army. She attended ChemEd to learn activities for their STEM Outreach program in Enterprise, Alabama. She explained to me how helicopter seats are designed and how testing is done on medical equipment used in aircraft. With glee and enthusiasm, she delivered what might ordinarily be drab information. I was fascinated with the passion she must bring to the kids. The summer program that is so highly acclaimed and attended by kids Grades 4-12 is called the GEMS program (Gains in the Education of Mathematics & Science). Army Research Labs from the following states participate in the GEMS program: Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. See pics of the cool stuff kid have done in the GEMS program.
  • #molympics! I met two educators, Kristin Gregory and Doug Ragan, who get as pumped up about Mole Day as we do at East Coweta High School. Their students compete with each other and with students they have met via the internet. Classes from Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico, and Massachusetts competed in 2014.  Some of the brilliant events include Stopper Tower, Sponge Squeeze, and the Avogadro Fitness Challenge. I can’t wait to participate with them on October 23, 2015!

    Molympics

    The Trophy Awarded to the Winners of Mole Day #molympics

  • I did not get to participate in the Mole Day Run on Thursday morning, but I’ve always been impressed that most chemists love to exercise. For those who were visiting from out of town, the run provided a reason to exercise outside of the hotel gym and with fellow teachers. I also met members of the National Mole Day Foundation. Pretty cool.
  • AP Labs…They are my nemesis. Fortunately, veteran AP Chem teachers Jeff Bracken, Paul Price, and Jesse Bernstein have written lab manuals abundant with user-friendly, manageable, inquiry labs. I can’t wait to start using their resources and providing my students with new experimental adventures.
  • Dr. Diana Mason: This spunky lady, no taller than five feet tall, packed a punch with some clever demonstrations that I will definitely be using:
    • 1) Distillation of a Soft Drink (https://goo.gl/9zPULy – link requires AACT membership)
    • 2) Salting out an Ethanol and Water Mixture
      Distillation Pic1

      Distillation Setup: 50 ml soda, rubber stopper, 50 ml beaker, foil, ice

      Distillation Pic2

      Distillation Setup: This apparatus will sit on a hot plate to start the separation process. Foil is in a pointy cone shape (upside down).

      Salting of Ethanol Solution

      Salting of Ethanol Solution is a great Warmup Activity – Group H has to find their “match”…the solution that looks just about the same as theirs.

      Salting Out EtOH InstructionsDistillation of a Soda Instructions

  • Tom Kuntzleman showed us why an orange peel pops a balloon. Lemons and limes apparently don’t have the same effect, so that provides for some good lab/inquiry activities. Apparently, the d-limonene in the orange peel dissolves the plastic of the balloon. Hexanes and motor oil will also dissolve the balloon. (l-limonene is found in lemon peel)
  • I had the opportunity to work alongside Adrian Dingle on an Acid-Base Half-Titration Lab. I have read Adrian’s work for several years now over the internet, I often use his well-constructed notes in my classroom, and I have participated in his online workshop. My students hear his name on a regular basis when I ask them to “Look at the Mr. Dingle notes.” They have even tweeted at him on occasion. I am fascinated by his ability to accomplish so much.  He has written an award-winning book, How To Make a Universe With 92 Ingredients. He is now working on a book project, for which he was awarded a fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA. You can follow his periodic table discovery progress: #dingleelements.
  • Learning how to incorporate engineering skills in the chemistry classroom has been one of my goals. Growing up, I heard people vaguely talking about engineers, but nobody ever told me what engineers actually did. My goal is for students to have some engineering experiences during high school so they are better prepared to choose a major in college. Three specific labs I learned about include copperplating, can crushing optimization, and designing a new cool polymer toy. Thanks to Dr. Sarah Boesdorfer for sharing these resources.
  • My friend and colleague, Dr. Karen Pompeo, and I presented a session on Modeling with Whiteboards. We explained the idea of visible thinking through particle diagrams, and we explored discussion strategies. Although our colleagues Candice Mohabir and Stefanie Easterwood weren’t with us at the conference, our recent year of teaching as a close-knit team provided us with plenty of experience.
  • One of the highlights for Karen was meeting two of her modeling mentors: Larry Dukerich and Erica Posthuma Adams. Embedded image permalink
  • Teachers Kyle Nackers and Micah Porter shared their expertise on “Promoting Scientific Writing in the Chemistry Classroom.” They showed us entertaining writing prompts that provide a basis for scientific reasoning and writing. Deflategate, movie clips, and You Tube snippets provide rich material for writing in the science classroom.
  • Dr. Mary Virginia Orna spoke to us about her book, The Chemical History of Color. We learned that, centuries ago, it required 10,000 Murex snails to produce 1 gram of royal purple dye. The 6,6′-dibromoindigo was so valuable that if anyone other than royalty wore the color purple, they risked a death sentence. Dr. Orna has also co-authored The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side. In 1999, the ACS awarded her the George C. Pimentel Award, the highest and most prestigious award in chemical education. The highlight of the day for me was when she told me that she had attended my session on whiteboarding and learned from Dr. Pompeo and me. Imagine that! It delighted me that I was able to impart a bit of information to an experienced author and chemist.
  • The next time these chemistry teachers will convene in one place is scheduled for the last week of July, 2016, in Greeley, Colorado.  If I hope to go, then I will surely be applying for an ACS Professional Development Grant. Dr. Richard Schwenz, of the University of Northern Colorado, will chair the event. Dr. Schwenz was the instructor for my first ever AP Chemistry workshop years ago, so his experience is sure to produce a successful conference. Until I see these wonderful folks again, I will be socializing and communicating through Twitter as @marthavmilam.
Waste Containers

KSU Chemical Waste Containers. Found in each Lab Room.

Half-Titration

Collection of Particle Diagrams for Acid-Base Half-Titration Lab. There may be some mistakes, but as always, these provide a basis for discussion.

Confronting the CHEATING Epidemic. Part TWO: Staying the Course

When I wrote “Confronting the CHEATING Epidemic. Part ONE: Starting the Conversation,” I was frustrated and disappointed. I had just sent home a letter to all of my students’ families. (See the letter in the Part ONE blog).

Since that time, I have been talking openly with my students about cheating. I have also moderated a Twitter Chat with my colleagues: @CowetaEducatorChat #CowetaEdChat. The chat is archived and can be found at: http://t.co/EHCTFYndXo (Thanks, Rainy Johnson!)

After digesting the information I have collected, I can share SIX POINTS that will reduce the cheating that takes place in our classrooms.

1) TALK ABOUT CHEATING. Once you meet your students, at the beginning of the semester or the school year, you need to start a conversation about cheating. It may seem negative, but it is necessary. It is like practicing fire alarms and code yellow drills. My instinct is NOT to talk about the negative issues, but GOOD teachers must address BAD things if it is something that will promote safety or ethical behavior. That is our job.

2) USE PRACTICAL PROCEDURES. Use different test versions. Separate kids during testing and have them use cover sheets/dividers. Have students write their names on the tests, even when it is a class set. (If they have a “B” test, you can verify that and they can’t claim to have had an “A” test, the same version as their neighbor.) For research papers, there are apps and programs available to check for plagiarism. Have students do their writing in class so you can monitor them. Take their phones away during testing. Talk to your teacher friends about what they do – we have come up with ways to stop the clever tactics.

3) USE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES. Offer some tests or assignments in which students are allowed to work together or use their notes and textbooks. Many times, we don’t consider how valuable it is for students to work with a partner on a test because they TALK about the material when it is a test grade. Some SERIOUS learning often takes place during a partner test. Many students, unfortunately, won’t crack open their notes unless it is an OPEN-NOTE test or quiz. Again, serious learning often takes place during an open-note quiz.

4) EVALUATE HOW YOU SET UP THE GRADEBOOK. Giving plenty of formative assessment before a big summative assessment takes the pressure off of the BIG test. Having plenty of grades in the gradebook allows students to have some low grades and remove the fear of one bad score tanking the grade. Also, allow students to correct bad grades. If they miss questions on a test, have them reevaluate those questions and explain what they did wrong OR explain how to find the right answers. This process is not only valuable in repairing bad grades but (more importantly) helps students achieve mastery of content.

5) STAY VIGILANT. Students will always need supervision. No matter how much we want to trust each one of our students, we need to watch them. THEY need to know that we are watching…because they need to know how important it is for them to stay honest. Eventually you will find someone who isn’t follow the honor code, and you will confront the issue. Not allowing dishonesty and confronting the situation sets the expectations for your students that cheating is not allowed in any manner.

6) KEEP TALKING. Keep having open and casual conversations about cheating. Have conversations about how they could do an assignment without cheating and still maintain their grades. Many times, cheating is a result of feeling overwhelmed or due to a lack of confidence. Often, students cheat because they assume their friends know more than they do, and they may copy someone’s wrong answers. Assuring students that they are capable of doing well is part of the conversation.

Listen carefully. Kids need to feel open enough to tell you about things they are doing in other classes; they will let down their guard and tell you WHY they are doing these things. Don’t be too judgmental or too harsh. They need to feel SAFE enough to talk, and they need to feel like you CARE as you explain to them how to be their most honest selves.

Day Ten: Random Lists – 5,4,3,2,1

Learn this, Know this, and LIVE this. You know who you are. Start counting your own blessings instead of (making me feel guilty for) mine.

5 Random Facts about me:

1) My biological father and his family traveled to the U.S. from Cuba to escape Fidel Castro. My last name is no longer Villanueva, and my parents didn’t stay married for long, so it always surprises people that I am Hispanic. Plus, my stepdad is from Pittsburgh, and people always see a resemblance between the two of us.

2) I used to travel to Southwest Harbor, Maine in the summers to visit my aunt and uncle. The smell of evergreen and blueberry bushes bring back great memories for me.

3) I have lived in Greenville, South Carolina – Dothan, Alabama – and Houston, Texas. I am back home in Georgia now.

4) I learned to water ski when I was 40. Probably the biggest “fear” I have overcome.

5) My husband has completed 3 Ironman Triathlons: one in Panama City Beach, FL, another in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the third in Madison, Wisconsin.

4 Bucket List Items. I would like to do the following:

1) hike part of the Appalachian trail

2) travel in Europe

3) take an Alaskan cruise

4) be a published author

3 Things I hope for this year:

1) to be more organized at school (which results in wasted time)

2) to balance my time more efficiently

3) to be kind to my students (even when I am frazzled)

2 Things that have made me laugh or cry as a teacher:

1) The last day that our seniors attend school in May is a bittersweet day for me and always leaves me in tears.

2) Last year an AP Chemistry student (who is dear to me) answered an FRQ (Free response question), and in her answer she made an analogy between chemical kinetics and teen pregnancy. She made the statement that the molecules in chemical reactions are like high schoolers with raging hormones. They just can’t wait, and just like the chemical reaction takes place, teen pregnancy results. I couldn’t figure out if she got the answer right or not, because the rubric failed me at that point. We all laughed really hard at this, and I am sure that I saved her paper.

1 thing I wish that more people knew about me….

I am working on writing a young adult novel about a group of teens who have unique challenges and secrets but work together to solve a series of crimes using their STEM skills. It is still awkward for me to discuss because it is such a new adventure. Kind of like when you get married and you find yourself talking about your “husband” when it is still such a new part of life. The best part of this work is that it’s so intertwined with everything I love to do: hang out with teenagers and talk about STEM. (Plus it’s on my bucket list!)

Day Nine: My Biggest Teaching Accomplishment – Finding My Most Powerful Tool

I may be a bit naive, but about once every few weeks I decide that I have just completed the best lesson of all time. I am so thrilled with myself that I run next door to any of my available colleagues and tell them that I have just taught the perfect lesson. They say, “That’s great, Martha. I can’t wait to hear more about it,” and go back to their work, knowing that I get a little overly excited sometimes. So, I have mini-teaching breakthroughs that happen regularly enough to keep me motivated and looking for new and fresh techniques.

BUT – there is something that I can say is my ONE best accomplishment – and it’s huge. It is classroom management. I must make this clear: things are certainly not perfect in my classroom, and I don’t have one hundred percent control at all times, but everything runs pretty smoothly these days.

Discipline is not my specialty. I would rather sharpen pencils all day long than discuss rules and procedures with eye-rolling teenagers. But, teaching an unruly classroom is just as effective as taking notes with a broken pencil tip. So, a well-managed classroom is a must for any of us who want to teach kids well.

After an evaluation one time I decided that I needed to be tougher on the kids – firmer, stricter, more demanding and less friendly…. I tried hard for a few days, but it just wasn’t my style, and I couldn’t keep up being Mrs. Mean.

I had two classroom management issues. First, I couldn’t get the class quiet in order to give instructions and teach a lesson. Second, I used to have students that didn’t like me and that wanted to argue with me. Those students, and their negative attitudes, occupied too much of my time, and it made me neglect the students who were eager to learn.

I have figured out that it’s not just “experience” that improved things, but it was a change in my relationship with the students.

At the beginning of each semester I started to figure out which students came in to the classroom with issues and would become my “problem” students. I learned to “stereotype” them – not by race, gender, or academic talent, but I could stereotype them according to their attitudes. I learned to treat the negative, sinister, teacher-defying scowls with “cool” compassion. I am not overly ooey gooey with them, but I become interested in their lives – their families, their jobs, their friends, their music, whatever I could find to discuss with them. I love doing this, and some of these kids have fascinating stories and are eager to have someone who is interested in them. People feel valued when we are asked for information that is specific to us. It doesn’t take much time to ask those questions; I am not having lengthy conversations while I am helping the students with their work. How many seconds does it take to ask “How is your Mom’s job going?” Just a couple, right? It’s worth the time.

I also avoid sarcasm. I used to think that it was fun to make sarcastic comments, and I know that some teachers are able to do this effectively, but it can yield a negative tone. We laugh and have fun with one another, but sarcasm isn’t part of the humor toolbag anymore.

Calling students by name, however, is my most powerful tool. Using someone’s name, and even better, giving them a nickname, makes students feel special. I have students who visit me after they have graduated or been out of my class for a while, and they come back and wait for me to call them “Al Pal”, “Kay Kay”, “Bobby C.”, or whatever name I had come up with for them. Often I use their first and last name together.

Think about what it feels like to hear the sound of YOUR first and last name together – not when you are in trouble, but as a greeting. It makes you feel important, even famous.

Some people will say that they are not good with names. Well, we are teachers. We need to be good with names. We are in the business of public relations, and the “inability” to know names is equivalent to wearing your pajamas to work. Knowing names comes fairly easy to me; I am lucky. However, I work pretty hard at it at the beginning of the year. I take notes and memorize names and people – just like students memorize the preamble to the Constitution. I practice until I get it right.

Because my students know that I value them, they listen to me when I ask them to be quiet while I am speaking (or while someone else is). I rarely have a”problem” student, and when I do, I end the negative relationship pretty quickly

Like I said, it’s not perfect – some days are better than others in terms of classroom management, but I finally feel like I am in control and have set a positive tone for the classroom.

So, dear Teacher Friend, best wishes to all of us as we work to manage our classrooms everyday.

Rita Pierson, a Lifelong Educator, gives a really powerful message on the importance of building relationships. It is a MUST-SEE!

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Day Eight: My Desk Drawer – my battle with purple pens & how I plan to win the war with the pen!

What’s in my desk drawer? Lots of pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers & whiteout. I use purple Bic pens for grading, and there is always an unbalanced distribution of those pens in my life. I keep the purple pens in one of these places: my car, my kitchen, my purse, my briefcase, behind my ear, and in my desk drawer at school.  Today I reached into my purse and found four purple pens. I don’t need four purple pens in my purse. I have to redistribute them tomorrow. Mondays are always busy, and the redistribution of pens isn’t important enough to make it to my “to do” list, but if I don’t do it, I will feel scattered. That is an example of why Mondays are “Mondays”. Reorganizing the little things requires time and distracts from the higher priority issues.

Tomorrow I am going to start using socrative.com and I am really looking forward to it. It is an online quizzing tool for my students that will require less usage of pens. Chalkup.co is another tool I plan to implement this week – designed for fewer pens and more online grading. I will report later on how those are working for me. Thanks to my colleague Matt East for introducing these to me. He works on the other side of campus, but we communicate often through Twitter, my favorite social media tool.

One quick note: I am slowing down on my blogging. I plan to continue my 30 day challenge, but it will take me longer than 30 days to write 30 posts. Yes – I am differentiating from many of you by going at a slower pace than I originally anticipated. I have gotten behind on grading, planning, and family time. I love the reflection, but I have to do some actual/real work so that I can find material to reflect on! Thanks to those of you who are reading, and Blog Day 9 will be coming one day soon….

Day Seven: Who Inspires Me the Most? Reminiscing my days at Lakeside High School in the ’80’s

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For those of us in my profession, I think that it is comical yet strange that WE ARE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL. There is a transition from being a student to a teacher, and while there is a vast difference in those two periods, we think often about our own days as high school students. Probably with much more frequency than non-teachers do.

From my former life as a high school student, here is a list of my favorite teachers and WHY they made a difference:

Ms. Diane Loring (English) – Her sharp wit and sly (but loving) smile was so fun. I enjoyed trying to figure out if she was telling the truth or not. Her tall tales kept me wondering…. I loved English, and I still do.

Ms. Mary Shelfer (English) – She and Ms. Loring were best friends, and I learned the value of strong relationships in the workplace. I also read great literature. She introduced me to my favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and to the great acting of Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Ms. Charleanne Pugh (Biology) – She was the most bubbly, spunky teacher I had. I loved asking questions and kept my hand raised because I loved having conversation with her. She never tired of all my questions and filled me with knowledge.

Ms. Joann Williams (AP Chemistry) – She showed dedication to teaching such a challenging subject , and her attention to detail in working problems was impressive. I ran into her recently at church with my parents, and while I spoke to her I knew that she wouldn’t understand how often I think about her.

Mr. Ralph Voris (Trigonometry & AP Calculus) – He was one of the quietest, most stoical men I have met, and his interest in teaching nutty high school kids intrigued me. He was filled with wisdom, and his motivational quotes in the top corner of the board were a window to his non-calculus thoughts. Those quotes are written down in a faded notebook that smells of old paper. I also discovered that the reward of learning something intensely difficult would prove greater than the temporary pain of the 2nd period stress-induced headaches.

Mr. Robert Koff (Math) – He was lively, kooky, and nerdy, and he was passionate about teaching us math. He ran around the room answering our questions, and he was the opposite of Mr. Voris. Teaching high school seemed like the perfect fit for him. (Kooky and nerdy are all GOOD things in my book, btw). One time I inadvertently wrote my last name wrong – I wrote the last name of my rock star crush. He quietly asked me if I had changed my name – out of concern for any changes in my family status. I was embarrassed, needless to say, and told him that everything at home was the same.

Coach Phil Lindsey (Health, PE) – He taught me to understand the importance of nutrition and how I am ultimately responsible for my own health. He taught me the enjoyment of walking and running. Although I can’t estimate distances in feet or yards at all, I know EXACTLY what it feels like to walk (or even drive) 1/4, 1/2 or 1 mile because of all those laps around the track. He was head coach of the football team, but he made me, a small, soft-spoken fourteen year old girl, feel equally as important as as the touchdown-scoring, rowdy football players that were featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution every week.

Ms. Evelyn Brady (Spanish) – She told us funny stories of her crazy life. One story I remember was the time she bought a new Volkswagen bug, but before she drove off the dealership lot the salesman had to teach her to drive a stick shift. He probably regretted making the sale. She owned a big pet snake (a boa?) which always brought interesting stories as well. There was always a student who was getting on her last nerve, and with her exaggeration and big emotion, she could have been a standup comedian. Lucky for us, she was a Spanish teacher.

Ms. Diane McKinney (Chemistry) – She was famous for her molecule dance, and her high energy level kept everyone engaged. She laughed a lot and loved being outdoors. We used bunsen burners and created formal lab reports in composition books. I learned why scientists use pen, not pencil, for recording data, and I still  treasure my composition book from tenth grade.

Mr. Bill Driskell (World History) – Wow! There is so much to say here. Mr. Driskell created nicknames for us. He called me Miss Newhouse because of my last name, Villanueva (which means New House). I loved that. I was special enough to earn a nickname. Our class ate lunch together and had a longer period (due to the class being split with driver’s ed which was taught in Norcross). Because of our extended time he would sit and play games with us during lunch or participate in our teenage conversations. He talked about his family; he was silly, goofy, and way too much fun! He was so expressive and could have rivaled Mrs. Brady for being a standup comedian. Plaid pants and bow ties showed up frequently in his wardrobe.

The best part of the story is that Mr. Driskell’s son was Ken Milam’s roommate at the Sigma Nu fraternity house at Georgia Tech in 1991. Had it not been for Logan Driskell, I would have never met the man who is now my husband. I saw Mr. Driskell not too long ago and told him that I have been teaching high school in Coweta County. His face lit up, and a big smile, filled with years of memories, beamed across his face. “Isn’t it fun?!“, he asked.

Yes, it is fun. There is no other job that I could enjoy as much as this one.

Not only did our teachers contribute so much to all of us who graduated in the 80’s, but their passion for teaching kids lives on through those of us who have filled their shoes….

Thanking you is not enough, but Thank You.

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Day Six: Two Traits of a Good Mentor

There are two traits required for Effective Mentorship:

1) Close physical proximity and an open door policy...
The only time I was a good mentor was when I worked directly across the hall from my mentee. Since she didn’t know what she needed help with until the moment it needed to happen, she had to be able to ask questions and get quick answers. For example, five minutes before a conference, when grades are due to be posted, after a parent phone call,…. I could help her as the moments evolved.

2) A positive attitude. This is really important. New teachers can be swayed “to the dark side” if they get the wrong mentor. Some teachers are better than others at instilling a productive attitude in others, so choose mentors judiciously.

Day Four: The TWO Things I Love Most About Teaching

I LOVE teaching. There are specifically 2 reasons that I enjoy my job.

1) STEM Career Coaching

My grandmother used to talk to her grown children frequently about their jobs. Of course she was concerned about family, kids, home, but career has always been important to my family. It’s genetic. You spend SO much time working. Not just the everyday, but across your entire life. It is important to have a fulfilling, enjoyable career because it is a huge part of life.

Many of our students don’t have someone who know much about the STEM in their careers, so I enjoy helping my students think about their options. Careers that require STEM include: doctor, electrician, cosmetologist, radiology assistant, auto mechanic, farmer, graphic designer, photographer, engineer, chef, builder, athletic trainer,…. You get the idea. Everyone uses STEM!

The students who take the hard core STEM jobs …I teach them in AP Chemistry, coach them in science Olympiad, or guide them to become a STEM intern with a local business. If they can narrow their focus in high school, they can get a head start on where to concentrate when they get to college.

2) I love high school kids. I can have regular conversations with them like I would with other adults, BUT high school kids like to have a bit more fun than adults do. And so do I. I like goofing off and being silly, and that works well in the classroom. I just read a great blog post by Heather Hollands and Amy Latinen, and Heather mentioned wanting to “engage all students” this year as one of her goals. Goofing off (in the right context) while teaching chemistry is my way of engaging students. They tend to stay focused a bit more because they don’t want to miss anything.

There is definitely more that I love about teaching, but this will be enough for now…..

@marthavmilam

Teachers Who Love Teaching Quote Back To School Quotes For Teachers

Day Three: Teacher Evaluation Goal – Including Differentiation in My Lesson Plans (& why I DON’T want to do it!)

I will have to say that the part of our TKES (Teacher Keys Effectiveness System) in which I am weakest is DIFFERENTIATION. I don’t PLAN it into my lesson plans like I need to do for the teacher evaluation process.

After reading a little bit on the subject, it seems that there are three terms: Differentiation, Personalized Learning, and Individualization of Learning. I personally don’t have an interest in spending much time “differentiating” among these three, but I will discuss them because it is an interesting concept. “Personalization” is not something that teachers can provide – it’s what those of us who are reading this blog are doing: directing our own learning. I do encourage students to do such, however.

I realize that I am a long way from documentation of individualized learning. I work about ten hours a day, I never get my daily goals completely accomplished, and I don’t do a good job of differentiating in my lesson plans. That being said, individualization is not on my radar as a “planned” goal. I already give up here.

Now – do I DO individualized learning with students? Of course! Most teachers do….We see how or why a student is struggling OR why he/she is so far advanced, and we create an explanation or a question specifically for that student. That is individualized teaching (learning?-doesn’t matter what you call it in my opinion). Am I going to spend time to put that in my lesson plans? No.

Do I differentiate? Of course – same as above. Most teachers do. Is it important to put that in my lesson plans? Not in my opinion, but that’s because I know I am doing it – so documenting becomes is a burdensome task. I suppose that with 150 teachers at our school it needs to be documented somewhere in case someone might possibly want to see it. Although I hope that I do the right things most days, I know that others may be falling short and that documentation should be required.

It’s only my third blog, but it’s already time for me to reveal that I am not a fan of educational drama. I know that those outside the classroom love to research the latest and greatest things that those of us in the classroom should be doing, but to me good teaching is just a combination of “teacher sense”, professionalism, loving kids, content knowledge…and enough sleep.

Back to the goal. I WILL include differentiation in my lesson plans – and the best part of this is that I work with a great team of peers and a supportive administration. We will work together to accomplish this task so that I can get a check mark on my teacher evaluation. And so that I can go to sleep at night.

@marthavmilam

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Day Two: My Technology Goal for the Year – Designed for Cross-Curricular Learning

One of our school STEM goals for the year is to create and implement cross-curricular (integrated) lessons. I am hoping to partner my AP chemistry students with students in both AP Literature and AP Microeconomics. In order to connect students with classes that do not meet at the same time we will use a web tool like Canvas Infrastructure. This platform allows teachers to assign lessons and allows students to communicate with one another and with their three teachers (yikes!). Canvas Infrastructure provides a user-friendly forum for cross-curricular projects and learning.

Read Ben Johnson’s blog featured on edutopia.org for inspiration and guidelines on how to plan with a cross-curricular team. Also see a video produced by Ken Ellis on the topic of Integrated Studies.

@marthavmilam

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. —Abraham Lincoln

Whenever you're feeling like giving up, remember these words.