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Philosophy of Teaching Claire Salier-Hellendag Describe your personal feeling and beliefs about teaching, including your own ideas of what makes you an outstanding science teacher with specific examples or outcomes that point to “excellence in teaching.” Describe the rewards you find in teaching. How are your beliefs about teaching demonstrated in your personal teaching style? Each year, when I step into my classroom, I hold few expectations. Each year brings new challenges that weather and change the bedrock that is my teaching philosophy. As I meet new, amazing teachers, go to conferences, and read books, my teaching changes. The fundamentals of education I learned in graduate school have shifted and rearranged themselves. These research-based fundamentals will always be tempered by how I learn and how I have been successfully taught over the years. These methods are the meat and potatoes of my teaching lexicon. I promise my students on the first day of class that my class will be interesting, fun, and that there will be no busy work. No matter how entertaining or ridiculous an activity is, there is a purpose. I plan with the end in mind. My goals are wide-ranging and include my TEKS and the skills my students need to walk away with. By looking toward the future, I can keep my standards high. A variety of formative and summative assessments make sure my students reach this goal. They create mobiles, models, skits, claymations, research papers, wikis, toys, lab reports, and tests to prove that they know and understand the material. Students get many opportunities to show that they understand and can think critically about their learning. I know that I have been successful when my students remember and understand material from year to year. They come back to me and tell me how something new has connections with something I taught them. I am a guide in an unknown landscape. My job is to introduce important characters and locations. It is my students’ job to delve deeper and become “good friends” with the information. By determining their own paths and making their own choices, my students take ownership of the material and care about their learning. I begin their journey into the unknown, by setting the scene with manipulatives and funny movies. They work through models and labs to further explore the material and then I let them loose on a more in-depth project where they will have to draw their own conclusions. For example, each year some of my students research topics and then work with the animation program to develop animations of their projects. My students have to explain the concepts well enough for non-science students to understand and develop a cohesive story. By helping students to imagine small and minute worlds, they begin to make new connections to old information. They take the material they learned in basic biology and chemistry and see how biochemistry and molecular machinery work; how these tiny workings lead to large scale anatomy, physiology, diseases, and so much more. They see relationships between their work and their humanities classes. They are excited when their history teacher delves into The Enlightenment because they already know all about the science of the period. Suddenly, the new industrial advances can be seen in both a historical and a scientific light. There are so many resources available to teach molecular biology and present what we know about this cellular world. Metaphors and stories bring these process and parts to life. The most exciting part of teaching this subject, is how fast it changes and how much we don’t know. During my nanotechnology unit, students constantly ask “what if” questions. They have been taught that science is finished; that all discoveries have been made and set in stone. I want them to see that their own future can lie in scientific endeavors. One way I accomplish this, is by focusing on the history of science throughout the year. My students understand that there are constant paradigm shifts and revamps.

They see that they too can have an impact. When they leave me, my students are explorers, thinkers, do-ers, and scientists. PhDs are not the only scientists of the world and I want my students to know that they can be scientists any time they ask scientific questions and perform experiments. We talk about all of the many amazing people who have figured out what we know today. Many of these people have developed the tools research scientists use. For a high school science “toolbox”, mine overflows: we perform protein & DNA electrophoresis, bloting, PCR, cloning, analysis of sequencing, and restriction digests (among others). I have time and small class sizes so I can make sure my students understand the processes not just the procedures. We discuss the ramifications and bioethics of these procedures. As 21st century learners, they need to know that there are debates, consequences, and unknowns. My students discuss and write about their own opinions and eventually they come to understand that these debates are full of gray and very little white and black. My students leave me better, prepared to be members of our society, able to think for themselves. Every year, during the first week of school, at least two students tell me that they don’t want to be in my class because they don’t like science. I tell them that this year will be different. Most of these students are intimidated because they have poor science backgrounds. I meet them where they are. I spend the time to teach them biology and some chemistry, so that they have strong foundations for a more strenuous molecular biology workout. I teach them, not through lecture, but through fun and by being silly. I always tell them that when I act stupid they will remember. We learn the cell parts using “the imaginary cell” and the cell cycle with pool noodles. My students forget to be embarrassed when they are learning science and instead show off their new knowledge. They love presenting their claymations, their Barbie lab safety videos, and their bacteria toys to their peers. They want their products to be the best, so they do the research and they ask questions with that goal in mind. This is student-centered instruction that works.


Describe your personal feeling and beliefs about teaching, including your own ideas of what makes you an outstanding science teacher with sp...

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