Educators are innovators.
Teaching allows me to fulfill what I believe to be a fundamental responsibility of all adults: to communicate information to children and young adults so they can make informed decisions.
I believe young students are in a time of great transition, and are not all at the same stage of development even when their chronological ages are the same. The secondary teacher's challenge is to provide an educational environment that will help adolescents develop intellectually and socially. Students at this age are very focused on interpersonal relationships and how they fit into the peer group. A secondary teacher who is able to maintain a caring, respectful atmosphere in the classroom will be able to show his or her students that they are cared about as individuals, and that each student's success is important. A safe and supportive science classroom creates an environment that encourages curiosity, and students will show a willingness to make mistakes without fear of punishment or ridicule.
The process of scientific thinking is logical and orderly, and like biological processes, involves feedback loops to direct further processes. Students who feel safe and encouraged in a classroom will be more likely to develop the scientific thought process, which is fundamentally based on making mistakes and learning from them, correcting misconceptions, further observations, and refinement of ideas. One of the great life skills that are a benefit of study in the sciences is that it teaches one how to learn and think about one's learning, through observation, hypothesis development, testing and revision, and developing conclusions based on the results.
After establishment of a caring, supportive environment, I believe that one of the most important things a secondary teacher can do is to make the academic content relevant to the students' lives and personal experience. This is particularly important in science, where the volume of details and facts associated with the major concepts can overwhelm students. Secondary students tend to be very self absorbed, and a teacher who taps into their self interest by making the content personally relevant will have the benefit of more motivated students.
The human mind wants to impose order, to classify, see patterns, and make connections. This bigger picture is vital - any classroom focused on memorization of countless facts will quickly stifle the natural curiosity typical of students in the secondary school age groups about themselves and the world. Emphasis in the science classroom on content that illustrates its relevance and usefulness to current and future self, will help students develop into functional contributing citizens, who are scientifically literate. I also believe one important part of science education that is often neglected is the study of the history of science in the context of society, and the forces that drive scientific exploration and discoveries. All science ought to be studied in a multidisciplinary context, emphasizing the interrelatedness of science, technology, politics and culture. With a multidisciplinary approach, students will have a background to understand the increasingly complicated ethics issues likely to face tomorrow's citizens as scientific and technological advances push what was previously speculation and fantasy into the realm of reality.
Teacher, Coach, Mentor