Planning Ahead, Part I

26 July 2005

In another month, things will be cranking up again for another school year. There will be a few days of "inservice." I am heavily involved with two of these. The district has chosen "Powerful Teaching and Learning (PTL)" as the focus for the 2005 - 2006 school year. PTL, which conjures up frightening images of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker for me, is actually just fancy packaging for brain-based learning and student engagement. As district science goddess, I'll have to put on a good show of not only buying into all of this, but also practicing what is being preached in front of every possible audience.

The first day of inservice is just for elementary teachers (grades K - 6). There will be four 90-minute sessions. Teachers will be split into four grade level groups. Two sessions will be mandatory: Duane Baker preachin' the PTL gospel and the new math curriculum alignment. Teachers will have choices for the remaining two sessions. This is where I come in. I have committed to presenting on "inquiry" as it relates to the science standards.

Content-wise, I have no concerns. I have some good tools to put in teachers' hands and I understand how to connect it to the standards. I am a little nervous about other things. First of all, I've never taught elementary...although I did teach sixth grade when it was part of a middle school. I don't know if my lack of "street cred" is going to damage anything. I've also been reading How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom. This book shows the application of cognitive sciences to helping students learn to do science and think scientifically. One thing that I have really pulled from it is the sense that our teaching of science needs to be more conceptual. But the tools we primarily use (textbooks, kits...) are more fact-based. So, my other concern about my presentations is how to translate this to teachers who are already overwhelmed with what they are to do and are not experts in science. I am thinking that if I pick the "right" kind of experiment to do with these teachers during our time together, that it will help. "Right" meaning that it fits the grade level that's being taught...addresses the standards...has a strong inquiry component...and may cause teachers to confront and explore some misconceptions they may have about the content. It's not such a simple bill to fill. I am glad to have some time to reflect on this and look for something suitable.

The icing on the cake is that I have to model a few of the brain-based strategies when I do all of this. It's not that these are "new" to me or that they are bad ideas---but it's a very different style for working with adults. At least for me. Will I be able to successfully juggle all of that in with everything else that's being presented?

Okay, so it's July and I should just chill out. But I'm the kind of person who likes to have a lot of "think time." Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on what's in store for the day for secondary teachers. PTL and pass the aspirin.

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