As I await the new college semester, I have been busying myself with substitute teaching a 7th grade Life Science class. They will be “mine” all the way through the first week of October. Wow!
Now, I have plenty to say about teaching 7th grade science…
First and foremost, I had no idea just how unprepared these kiddos would be for a light independent research project! In retrospect, I completely understand; however, it certainly surprised me when I first introduced our research project on atoms! I only hope my kids are learning as much from me as I am from them! I was unaware of just how much I could hone my improvisational skills in a mere three days. Color me impressed!
Essentially, the lesson I was given was to have my kids research either Oxygen, Hydrogen, or Carbon. This research requires them to identify the correct number of protons, neutrons, and electrons for the atomic forms of their respective elements. In addition to this, they need to create an information tag in the same format with which their element is presented on the periodic table. So far, only a few particularly bright, science-minded students made this visual connection. With this research, they will be building small models of their given atoms. Let me pause to say that Monday (build day) is undoubtedly going to be chaotic!
So, why is this project such a challenge? Well, as a daily warm-up, I asked my students to write out everything they know about atoms. The second they were given this prompt, they met my eyes with the blankest stares ever given. They all tried their best to try and think of some possibilities, but one answer I saw several times was “I think an atom is a type of rock.” You can see why this would be problematic.
To make things more challenging, my kids really struggled to follow directions. Perhaps it was the flurry of a completely new learning environment, or perhaps it was my own shortcomings; however, a million times later my kids still needed me to strongly re-emphasize that “If you have a question, wait patiently in your seat with your hand raised, and I will make my way over shortly.” Nope, I had crowds at my ankles! Fortunately, I took this as an opportunity to learn more effective methods, and have been tackling this issue more and more each day!
With all of that said and done, I’d like to finish by saying that this is the most gratifying position I’ve taken so far. Although I’m increasingly nervous as build day creeps closer and closer, I love my classes and look forward to learning more from them each new day of school!