How does professional development help you with your teaching practice?
“Professional development has provided a new outlook on what I can be doing within the classroom. It doesn’t always come from the presenter. Often it comes from the teachers participating in the PD and the discussions that they have about the content matter. The PD that has really been beneficial has brought up ideas that apply to high schoolers within the public school system, real life examples of how to apply this, and the time to practice the ideas being taught.”
What was it about the Wade Institute’s professional learning programs that interested you? In which programs have you participated over the years?
“Wade has provided professional development that is hands-on and applicable to the topics I teach without a semester-long time commitment. I’ve participated in the summer programs on the south shore for both MITS [now the Wade Institute] and the Wade Institute. During the program with MITS, we looked deeper into the energy use and conservation at Mass Maritime. With the Wade Institute, there were investigations of marine life and investigations about local ecosystems. These courses have been a blessing to me because I’ve gotten to experience such great things without having to spend a lot of time away from my family.”
What were your favorite experiences during Wade Institute professional learning? What content did you find most useful?
“The things that have drawn me back to Wade are the hands-on learning experiences with fellow science teachers and the trips to various programs within our community. During my very first experience, I remember that there were a bunch of empty tables with boxes of random items and we were given instructions to create something. I thought to myself, this is pretty cool. We went to the water and were able to use the SeaPerch to investigate the water below. This was even better because I would never gain access to something like this during a regular day at school. But it was the day trips that put the experiences over the top: the Woods Hole Aquarium, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Marine Life Center, the Lloyd Center for the Environment, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. During these trips, we were able to chat with experts in their field and use that information to implement into our classroom.”
Have you used any of the content from the institutes in your classroom? How have your students responded to any changes you’ve made to your approach/curriculum based on your experiences?
“I’ve spent a lot of time using notebooks within my classroom. The students really enjoy making the work their own. I’ve found that some students have enjoyed making theirs colorful and applicable to what they need to know. I’ve also had students design their own lab activity. Their first introduction to this is during a popcorn lab. I bring in different types of microwave popcorn and they have to determine what they are testing for. Is it pop size, shape, taste, % popped, etc. The students love being in control of their experiment. The discussions that I hear are really thought out. I’ve also included the idea of giving students supplies and allowing them to build a solution to a problem. For example, I give them a budget and they have to purchase items to help create a windmill that will turn when the fan is turned on. At first, the problem solving skills can be a bit intimidating, but the students become more comfortable with having discussions with their peers and trying to figure out the solutions on their own.”
What have been your successes implementing inquiry-based investigations in your classroom?
“At first, students can be a bit intimidated by the idea of thinking on their own and collaborating with their peers. I’ve tried to start out my classes with a picture or video that relates to what we are discussing. We will have some form of a discussion about it, hypothesize about it, or have them come up with a solution for it. Some students are inventive and discuss it at lunch with their peers. They think they have an advantage when they come to class, but I’m okay with that. It just means that they are discussing classroom topics outside of the classroom.”
What would you say to someone aspiring to teach?
“The best advice that I can give to someone looking to become a teacher is to get to know your students. It’s not just about memorizing names. Each student has their own fears, learning styles, and experiences outside of the classroom. You have to be able to recognize that and create a learning experience that can support them. A few weeks ago I ran into the mother of a former student. She hugged me and thanked me for all of the efforts I made. It’s those types of connections that will help to support and encourage the students today, tomorrow, and with their own children.”