I foster positive relationships with students, families, colleagues, local community, and global community in order to promote and enhance the teaching and learning environment.
Helping to foster and build community in general is one of the elements I am most drawn to in teaching, and I enjoy building connections between my classroom and the associated families, colleagues and communities. I form professional learning communities with colleagues also interested in teaching, and common projects (RWAs) involve students helping their friends and families understand physics better.
Outreach and Collaboration
A day of collaboration and community involving a guest speaker, a coffee review session, and a school play
On a Friday close to the end of my high school placement, I brought my husband in as a guest speaker to discuss the excitement of being a scientist at Cornell University while showing the students how the Electricity concepts they had learned about related to dust storms, climate change, Mars, and volcanic lightning. Students were asked to read a news article about his research and ask at least one question based on this article or his presentation. The student feedback (given on index cards) was overwhelmingly positive, where they were asked to write one positive comment and one negative comment and yet virtually every student had only positive things to say. Students were excited to see us touring the school together during lunch, and all waved enthusiastically when we arrived at the coffee shop after school for a physics review session. Finally, we ended the day by attending the high school play, “The Mouse that Roared” (again greeted by enthusiastic students), where I recognized some nuclear physics equations that I had provided for use in the set. I was also glad to see little care packages for each student in the play, where I could leave a personalized note for all my students. This day alone revealed so many characteristics and strengths about many students that I had never been aware of before, and made me much sadder to have to leave my placement the following week.
Examples of Collaboration and Outreach
International Science Fair Judge representing USAID
I volunteered to judge projects at the International Science Fair to help determine which were most aligned with the mission of the US AID (Agency for International Development). This was the first time that such a prize was awarded for development-minded projects. It was really inspiring to see young people from all over the world trying to make the world a slightly more equal place. (And I got to introduce my 8-month-old to the world of science fairs!)
Field trip with college freshmen to energy retrofit
While guest lecturing a college physics course, I took the class to a local house undergoing an energy retrofit to help the students see energy efficiency techniques applied in the real world. While encouraging them to ask questions before, during, and after the visit, this was a great opportunity for students to see an application of the topics we had been discussing in our Physics of Power seminar.
Newfield Family Science Night
I enjoyed working with my mentor teacher and other science teachers at the school to help set up an evening in which the students educated parents and family members about the scientific work they are conducting in class. I look forward to organizing such nights for my own classroom and school.
Outreach in my college course: The subject of physics provides opportunities for the students to practice applying their knowledge by explaining real-world phenomena to their parents using physics. I integrate scientific inquiry in my classroom, which involves students, listening, speaking and writing about science with family members (Ash, D & Kluger-Bell, B. (2000). Identifying inquiry in the K-5 classroom. In National Science Foundation (Eds.), Inquiry : Thoughts, views, and strategies for the K-5 classroom (Chapter 10). Washington, DC: National Science Foundation. (April 1, 2013).).
Some students present to families, some to friends, and others to their previous high school physics classes. I also organize a group of students to participate in UCLA's annual science outreach day, where my students spend weeks putting together presentations that not only engage visitors but also ask questions of them to help them better learn.
I thereby integrate community projects into my science teaching, finding out which aspects of the community the students are interested in and helping them broadly communicate results (e.g., Berger, R. (2003). An ethic of excellence. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.).
Specific to high school teaching: My own student teaching experience has clearly corroborated the repeated research findings on the importance of parents and families in the education of students (Epstein, 1992). In my quest to equalize opportunities, I will strive to involve as many families and community members as possible to help build these supportive relationships rather than let lack of family involvement continue in a negative cycle.
Teachers will tell you time and again how much you can discover about a student by meeting their family. Meeting their families helps me understand where my students come from, and working with families helps us all provide consistent support and encouragement to students. After participating in a student-teacher conference, I had a much better understanding of my student, I was more empathetic in my interactions with the student, and I noticed improved engagement on his part, and ultimately a higher unit grade than he had had in previous units. The attached reflection below on parent collaboration further describes my thoughts on working with parents.
In addition to interactions with family members, I constantly seek other outreach opportunities. During student teaching, I had one particularly wonderful day of interactions that extended beyond the classroom, involving a guest speaker, a downtown coffee shop review session, and a high school play where half the cast were my students (see the detailed description below). I also enjoyed participating in a Family Science Night, where I worked with some students to present the physics of roller coasters to visiting family and community members.
I look forward to continuing to learn ways to integrate students, families, and local and global communites into my teaching.
"Shanna went above the call of duty to go to extracurricular events and meetings."