website explores the difficulties and the joys of my work helping science-phobic
preservice teachers find their voices and create their music in singing
a song about science, both for themselves and with the children they teach.
-Deborah Smith, Michigan State University
Students come to the course with little or no conceptual understanding of the science they will be teaching. They know this; it's painful and scary for them, and getting it on the table and building a community around that problem is an important first step. We have to move beyond this, to an acceptance that we weren't stupid, we just didn't have teachers who knew how to teach science well, because almost nobody knew how, at the time we went through schooling, and most teachers still don't today.
The next central problem is how do we learn science with understanding ourselves? We do science learning activities in class, and I model reform-minded assessment, planning and teaching with my students. The problem that arises is, since they've never seen teaching and never learned science like this before, it's all bizarre and new to them, and seems to some to be a cop out, irresponsible, and certainly not what they had in mind. They also cannot believe that the view of scientific inquiry that I'm presenting is authentic, because it doesn't fit the "scientific method" steps they were taught. So, other songs in this section include "You say tomato, and I say tomahto" and "Trouble in River City," because none of this looks like what they expected and it's troubling to them (and they give me a lot of trouble about it!)
The central problem here is, even though we're not ready, we're going to be teaching children in the field placements. So, how do we get ready, even though we're feeling woefully underprepared?
The central problem here is, creating a supportive community and maximizing students' possibilities for doing a good job with children and learning to feel successful as a science teacher. Selecting the right balance of support and challenge, given the contexts of the field placements students are in, is a central issue for me.
The final problem in the course is that of helping students see the progress they've made. Often, they are so focused on the difficulties they've encountered that they have trouble remembering where they started and how far they've come. In this part of the course, I encourage them to see this as the first step on a lifetime journey to create a career.