Hindsight is 20/20 (Guest blogger: Mrs. Jordan Szechowycz)

 “Mrs. Szechowycz, you are the best teacher ever!” Hearing something like this makes all the stressfulness and craziness of teaching completely worth every second. When I was in third grade I decided that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. I was so jealous of my teacher because she got to write on the chalkboard anytime she wanted. I wanted my own classroom so I could write on the chalkboard at any time! As I grew older my dream of teaching continued, but because I wanted to work with kids and teaching seemed like a great way to fulfill my dream.
 
In college, I felt very comfortable with planning activities to meet the state standards that kids would also enjoy. I felt confident in my ability to set high standards for my students and help them reach their full potential. I had seen several classrooms and watched many teachers handle difficult behaviors and keep their students on task. I was ready to step into the classroom with students who were ready to learn and ready to conquer the world!
 
My first year I realized just how un-prepared I really was. There are so many things that college CANNOT prepare you for!
 
I Wish Someone Told Me:
SUBBING IS VERY BENEFICIAL! If possible, sub for at least a year before your first full-time teaching job. This allows you to see multiple grades and multiple districts. You also get the chance to see many different classrooms and you are able to get an idea of how you want to set up and organize your own classroom. You also get the chance to see other teachers handle classroom management and you can borrow ideas from them.
BECOME A VOLUNTEER! Along with subbing, volunteer in as many classrooms as much as possible! This gives you the opportunity to see the reality of what a teacher does on a daily basis and how to handle the difficult behaviors that you may not have seen.
FIND A MENTOR! Once you get hired, find someone you can go to as a mentor who is able to provide anything and everything for you. My first year I had a mentor who gave me every activity she did each week and walked through her lesson plans with me every week. Even though you have so many amazing ideas about all these fun activities, you will not have time to do it all your first year. I was able to start out using everything she gave me and then slowly adding in my own activities as I got more comfortable with the age group and the district in which I was teaching.
PAY IT FORWARD! After your first couple of years hopefully you found an amazing mentor who was able to help you when needed and who was able to share activities and ideas with you. When a new teacher joins your team, give them all the support and help they need. Offer ideas that you have used or strategies that you found successful. Talk them through difficult behaviors and possible strategies to try to help lessen the difficult behaviors. If you don’t have an answer, point them in the direction to find the answer.
COLLABORATION IS KEY! Collaboration is so important as teachers because the job can be so overwhelmingly stressful. Teachers need a support system of people who understand exactly what the others are going through. Your job will be so much more rewarding if you have someone you can work through the difficult times with.
There is no way to be fully prepared for teaching because it is a job where you just have to experience it. You have to be thrown into a classroom and survive the day, making sure no one gets injured and everyone makes it home at the end of the day. Every day is different at teaching, and every student is unique. There is no way for you to be fully prepared because in this job you are working with humans. They will throw you curveballs that you will hopefully learn to be ready for, but when you see the lightbulb turn on or when you hear, “You’re the best teacher ever!” it makes all those difficult times completely worth it! 

Mrs. Szechowycz graduated from Western Illinois University with her Bachelor’s Degree in 2011 and her Master’s Degree in reading in 2015. She is a kindergarten teacher at Lincoln School in Macomb, Illinois and she has taught kindergarten for 7 years.

Why Science Matters to Early Childhood Preservice Teachers? (Guest blogger: Dr. Abha Singh)

In current times, career options for today’s children are in the field’s which require knowledge of science and math. Any reduction in the science could lead to a domino effect with an initiation of science content restriction early on which results (I think) in students not having an interest in science, and may lack stronger science foundation, which may further lead them not to pursue science careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the future.

This makes science different from other content areas.

I think we need to think about – what message about science are we conveying to our pre-service teachers, and then to children by reducing the semester hours for the only ECH science methods course?

I’ve listed a few points from the attached article – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) SMART BRIEF.

The problem:

  1. Approximately 40% of U.S. children are not ready for kindergarten, and too many children reach Grade 4 lacking key science and math skills and knowledge.
  2. Only 34% of Grade 4 students achieved a score of “At or Above Proficient” on the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, 2014), which means, 66% of students DO NOT achieve a score of “At or Above Proficient” on the science portion of the NAEP.

Possible Reasons for the Problem from Research:

The main challenges are in three crucial areas of the PreK-3 grades learning landscape that bar the way to the successful STEM learning of children ages 3 to 8.

  1. Curriculum and Instruction
  2. Educator Development
  3. Standards

Teachers are the key ingredient in effective PreK–3 STEM learning. They must be prepared to adeptly draw upon strategies to promote children’s learning and tailor curriculum to meet the needs of each child.

Yet recent reports indicate that current systems of PreK–3 teacher preparation, licensure, and hiring are often inadequate, and that young children’s educators do not have the training they need to support children’s learning.

Conclusion:

Teachers who have received high-quality pre-service and in-service training focused on science, effective instruction and curriculum, and how to draw upon standards and assessment to enhance each child’s STEM learning is essential.


References

Bornfreund, L. A. (2011, March). Getting in sync: Revamping licensing and preparation for teachers in pre-Kindergarten, and the early grades. Washington, DC: The New America Foundation

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011).Science 2009: National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4, 8, and 12. Washington, DC: Author.

Clements, D., Agodini, R., & Harris, B. (2013, September). Instructional practices and student math achievement: Correlations from a study of math curricula. NCEE Evaluation Brief. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20134020/pdf/20134020.pdf

Worth, K. (2010, May). Science in early childhood classrooms: Content and process. Paper presented at the STEM in Early Education and Development Conference, Cedar Falls, IA. http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/beyond/seed/ worth.html

Clements, D. (2013, September). Math in the early years. ECS Research Brief: The Progress of EducationalReform, 14(5). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/4787293/ Math_in_the_Early_Years_ECS_Research Brief_The_progress_of_educational_reform


Dr. Abha Singh is an Associate Professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois USA. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in science education and education. Dr. Singh has facilitated several science professional development (PD) for elementary, middle and high school in-service teachers for ISBE grant initiatives through the Regional Office of Education: 1. Northern Illinois Mathematics and Science (NIMS) for two years; 2. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) PD for Western Illinois Mathematics Teacher Transformation Institute (WI-MTTI) for two years; 3. PD for K-6 teachers in the integration of science and literacy through a grant from the Tracey Family Foundation. Her research is in the area of integrating science and literacy. She presents at State, National and International Conferences and facilitates science education workshops for in-service science teachers. Her research is in teaching science with literacy.

Correspondence: A-Singh@wiu.edu