Career Story: Science Teacher At An Urban Middle School

Science Teacher At An Urban Middle School

Job Title: Science Teacher

Type of Company: I work for an urban school district near Boston MA

Education: BS in Environmental Science from Colorado State University •• MEd (Master of Education) in Science Education from Boston University •• MEd in Specialized Program from Harvard School of Education

Previous Experience: I worked at several environmental education positions before participating in a teacher training program to get my certification in general science teaching.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for planning lessons in general science for 7th to 8th graders at my particular school. An important first step is to consult the state and district frameworks on what should be taught, next is to consider what are good ways of assessing my students to know whether they have really learned the materials I have taught and finally I design a set of activities to use on a day-to-day basis that should best help them learn the material and do well on any assessments.

The night before I teach, I go over the lesson for the next day. I often imagine what will go on each step of the lesson and ask myself questions like; What will the students do first when they come into the room, What important notes and reminders do I need to give them? When is the best time to distribute the materials for the lesson? What opportunities will there be for students to work together? How will I wrap up the lessons? I jot down notes to myself and prepare a simple Powerpoint to go over key points I want to make. I also write a list of any preparations I must do such as prepare lab materials or run off copies.

At school I start my day with doing all the preparations I planned the night before. I often meet with the other teachers who work on my "team". We all have the same students although we teach different subjects. We share news on any issues students are having or information on upcoming trips and events that will effect our schedule. Once the bell rings and the students arrive I am responsible for taking attendance. I usually have the first two periods free to meet more with the teachers or to prepare more for teaching.

Once I start teaching my actual classes, I work off the notes from the nights before. Each class is a little different. Students need to be reminded a lot about the correct behavior in class. Some days classroom management issues take away a lot of the time from the lesson I prepared. At the end of the day I will sometimes work with students after school. I sometimes have more teacher meetings. There is always time in the evening spent grading papers and doing new planning for the next day.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I enjoy my job because it allows me to be creative. I am always challenged by the best ways to engage my students with the material I am teaching and to help them understand it better. I enjoy working with 12 and 14 year olds (believe it or not!!) - they have great enthusiasm for things and they help to keep me young! I confess too to enjoying having the summers off!

I am not always happy about all the hours I have to spend on evenings and weekends grading papers and planning for lessons and other events in school. (Although I often like reading the ideas of my students on a one by one basis!) The behavior management part of teaching can be wearing at times. Although school is usually 6 hours total, I can often put in 9 hours at school with another 1 or 2 at home. It can make for long days.

Job Tips:
1. Even when you are very knowledgeable in a subject, this alone does not make you a teacher. You need to be able to translate what you know so well into understanding for the students. Teaching is not about telling students what you know, it is being able to lead them into understanding.

2. Spend time in a classroom as a volunteer or teacher's aid to see if working with children is for you. Try to spend time across a full school year to get the ebb and flow of energy for 180 days. Actual time with students is a valuable learning experience.

3. Look for teaching certification programs that require a lot of time in classrooms but also give you mentoring and support as you develop your skills.

Additional Thoughts: You need to have a lot of patience, a good sense of humor and to not take things too personally when working as a teacher.

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