Last week, when I was at the annual conference of the Science Teachers Association of Ontario, I attended a luncheon sponsored by Smarter Science. I was joined at the table by a few pre-service teachers. STAO does a nice job of getting pre-service teachers out to their conference, by providing reasonable rates for them to attend. We had a few speakers give short talks about the importance of science education, and how it’s changing in profound ways. The move from memorizing content, content, content to a more balanced approach that also emphasizes skills, critical thinking and the processes of science.
During our conversation, one of the young teachers asked me how we could balance that load of content v.s. process in a working classroom. Being one to never miss an opportunity, I turned to her and asked her a question.
Me: "Let me ask you something. Tell me what you remember from your high school science classes."
Her: "I remember memorizing lots of things, and having tests on them."
Me: "Tell me one thing you memorized."
Her: "I can’t, I don’t remember them now."
Me: "Ok, then tell me what you do remember doing in science class."
Her: "I remember this field trip we took to a local forest. I remember doing this project with my friend. I remember some of the labs and things we did in class."
Me: "You’ve just answered your own question. Do that. Teach that way. Do what your students will remember, and don’t get hung up on the things that are forgettable."
I think she understood what I was getting at, but the hard part is yet to come. She has to learn to make that leap and let go of the fear of ‘not covering something’ in her class. I hope she succeeds, and I wish her the best of luck.
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“…let go of the fear of ‘not covering something’ in her class.” You’ve zoned in on an important skill that all teachers, new and seasoned, need the confidence to recognize. Sometimes as I watch my gr. 7/8’s do “silly” things, like melt butter on copper, bronze, iron and glass rods, I know they’ll remember it, because they’re engaged.
It’s not just the pre-service teachers that struggle with that “leap of faith”. As caring teachers, we always want to provide the best experiences for our students but often feel pressured to conform, to do things the way they’ve always been done. I believe it takes a true act of courage to let go of the control over our class and become a co-learner with our students. If we believe that true learning takes place when a personal connection is made by the students, we need to learn alongside them. It doesn’t mean that we toss aside everything we know and value in teaching. It just means that we build on those foundations and use our own creativity to make every moment count.