Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Might Think That I Disappeared...

Just the other day, I was sitting at home thinking. (Note: this is not something that I usually find myself doing since there is a lot going on.)

"I have not been to my 'Blogger' account for quite awhile." The time has gone by and I have found myself going back to my old ways, in the classroom. Sure, I might say to you, "there are times when I seem to be rather forward thinking in the classroom." But, it seems like I am just doing the things that I used to do in the classroom before I was worried about preparing students for the world. As a matter of fact, I used the overhead projector, stood at it, and lectured to my students about chemical bonding. (Yuck. not the material but the method.) I was wondering why the students were not as fascinated as I was about the fact that atoms that have no ability to make decisions come together in just the right way to make a human being or an animal or a plant or anything else that is in the Universe. Then it dawned on me. They don't care because it is my fascination and not theirs. Duh.

When you take the time to look at what students are interested in, and for the most part it is not chemistry, they are interested in what their life is about. There is no way to get students truly interested in the world that I like (there are exceptions) but what if there was a way to use their world to teach science to them. Or better yet, what if there was a way that they could use their world to teach themselves science. At some point, students lose the drive to investigate the world around them. They lose a sense of wonder. They lose the ability to think about "why" and "what if". Sometimes, I use teh excuse of "there just is not enough time." But what if there was not enough time to continue teaching the same old way and missing the chance to get students excited about science?

When I try to think about questions in chemistry that will get the students thinking about an exciting topic it usually backfires and little to no discussion follows. I am wondering if this is a problem with how I am presenting the material or if the issue is with how the students have learned to "play school." Now, there are times when the questions that come up in class lead us into a grand discussion but usually, it is a discussion between myself and two or fewer students. Is there a way to get the larger group involved? What are some of the techniques for presenting questions that lead students into deeper investigations in science? Has there been any research about how students learn science? What happens when a student is engaged in science and decides that they want to pursue it later in school? What was it that made me want to be a science major? (or better yet, what were the driving forces behind me wanting to be a teacher?) Are there ways to brake out of the stucture of school that I am used to and am comfortable with? Will this get easier?

I do think that I am on my way back to the blogosphere. I will even make sure that my daughter's ages are correct in my profile. Amazing what you can do with some time, a little initiative and a desire to change.


Karl Fisch said...

Welcome back!

Carolyn Foote said...


I am not a science person, but a librarian from Texas ;) but I just wanted to say I admire your self-reflection.

When I think about science programs, I feel that really, what leads someone to become a scientist, is probably that love for inquiry? Science at its best is inquiry based.

It's about wondering about how things work or being curious about something and digging into the idea deeply, asking questions and trying to find out the answers.

Sometimes I am puzzled at my own campus how little our science teachers have students use the library or incorporate "research" because it seems to me if you work in science professionally, your job generally is research based.
(Some of this may be happening "outside the library" of course...but generally my sense is that it isn't at our campus?) There seems to be a more passive learning model going on.

I was also thinking about how younger students approach science versus older students. Kids seem to have this natural interest in how things work--but also in elementary school, teachers may pursue the interest a student has that comes up naturally. The student might bring in a strange looking beetle, and the class identifies it and reads a picture book about a beetle, spontaneously, and then draws pictures of beetles. Because the day isn't so segmented into subjects, a teacher can also pursue that interest across language arts, social studies, etc.

At high school and middle schools, it seems that the curriculum is somewhat fixed, at least in schools I'm familiar with.

So I'm not sure the attitude is always projected that "let's be curious" or "let's share things we wonder about" happens as often?

I hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts and since I know nothing about your science program, this is definitely no indictment--I'm just wondering in general about how it's taught and about the questions you were asking. I think they are great questions.

bkitch said...

Welcome back from us Cohort 2 members as well. We are constantly encouraged to really read cohort one so glad to see you blogging again. It is funny you wrote about this because I had a similar day last Friday with past tense "ir" irregular verbs. I don't think I could have given the material in a more boring dictative method. Communication in the classroom and constructivism are in the forefront of my mind now, and I am truly bothered when I give a lesson this way. Hopefully those kiddos in your class theat day didn't have me the very next period on my bad day!

Kurt W. said...

I love to hear a teacher ask "what if" questions. It seems that only students ask these questions today, but to listen to a teacher with an imagination is so refreshing. Even in a community that is looking towards the future, so few dream about how to get to the future. Kudos!

Unknown said...

Hi Brian. It's been about 18 years, so you might not remember me, but I went to Dartmouth with you. I've been running into people from my jr high days lately and found your blog. You can email me at gsya@hotmail.com if you (remember me) and want to reconnect. -George