Dilemma: How do we prepare new chemistry teachers for the 21st century classroom?

Which Way

“I wish I knew then what I know now.” How often do you reflect on your first year of teaching? When I run into a student from my first few years, I catch myself hiding behind a clothes rack or ducking down the frozen food aisle. I’m embarrassed.

How do you prepare someone for the career of teaching chemistry? This question has been rattling around in my head since January as I have been working with two interns. These men have chemistry degrees and are completing master’s degrees. Content knowledge is not a concern; I am overwhelmed with the responsibility of modeling all of the traits of a successful teacher.

Where should I focus? Lab safety is an obvious concern, and learning to facilitate inquiry learning without allowing students to develop misconceptions is critical in science. Particle-level modeling and flipped classrooms are exciting, new strategies that seem to increase student achievement. What about formative assessment data and daily differentiated learning? IEPs, 504 plans, ELL strategies…successful teachers have to be good at meeting individual student needs. Conveying complex and abstract ideas to high school students challenges every chemistry teacher so pedagogical tips are significant. Is “pay for performance” going to happen, and will it frighten away an inexperienced teacher? Is the co-teaching model for student-teachers best for their development, or do they need to fully take over the classroom for a few weeks? Every teacher needs skills in relationship-building as students need to know that we care and peer collaboration is crucial. My head hurts.

Do you have a book, letter, or reflection that you believe every chemistry teacher should read? Do you have a piece of advice to pass on to our next generation of science teachers? Are you a new chemistry with advice for future or current mentors?