I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I could not have written a better job description for myself because I did not know such a job existed. There are the obvious reasons to love it; part time, no grading, no parent conferences, no testing. It is teaching in its purest form.
I wear several hats at work. I am one of the teacher sponsors for our GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) club. It is amazing to see the interest and enthusiasm from our girls as they listen to women speakers from STEM careers or as they approach an engineering challenge. I am also our Get2Green representative. This means that I am making efforts to “green” up our school. So far, this has been in the form of getting a grant to support our food “rescue” program, teaching recycling lessons to the K-4 kids, and getting our school involved in Terracycling which is an “upcycling” program – our used glue sticks eventually become rubber benches and trash cans. The county identifies me as a Title I math resource teacher which means that I have been to some really informative classes on math instruction. If I ever go back into the gen ed classroom, I am going to have so many tools in my toolkit. This year I am taking a course on Cognitively Guided instruction. Basically this means that I am getting a lot of insight into how kids think which is not necessarily how we are teaching. I am excited to partner up with a first grade teacher this month to put these methods into use.
None of those are my primary job or passion though. Mainly I teach in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) lab. As a simple explanation, I would say that we generally take an engineering focus and incorporate science, technology and math. I work with grades K-5 this year. Somehow my schedule both years has precluded me from working with 6th grade – a mixed blessing, I think. I share the lab with our school’s Advanced Academics resource teacher and our School Based Technology specialist as well as a lot of animals – Christopher (guinea pig), Remy (rat), Oscar (leopard gecko), Bandit (snake), 4 fish tanks, 3 hermit crabs, a tank full of madagascar hissing cockroaches, and assorted plants. For many of our students, this is their first exposure to these kinds of pets. It doesn’t matter what grade level is in the room, when I get the snake out, they are SO psyched.
This year we have been focusing heavily on the engineering design cycle with the upper grades. We give them a challenge like “given a set of materials, build a tower, at least 18 inches tall, that can hold a tennis ball and withstand windy conditions”. This kind of divergent, open-ended thinking means that everyone has the potential to shine. We see moments of greatness from kids who might not usually experience that level of success in the conventional classroom setting. We see the students full of wonder and questioning why and how things work. With the younger kids we have been exploring simpler concepts like how shadows are made or how fog is formed followed up by an art based project or science experiment. Even our youngest K classes will be tackling engineering challenges based on this year’s theme of weather. This job stretches my thinking and creativity and is rewarding in so so many ways. For that I am incredibly grateful.